Tough budget choices ahead for Scottish Borders Council

SBC Headquarters
SBC Headquarters

FACED with a shortfall of £3.846 million in the next financial year, Scottish Borders Council has been looking at its budget and last week agreed an initial set of revenue budget proposals.

Service changes proposed include: the centralisation of social, emotional and behavioural need service (SEBN); a review of social work business support services, all social care and health specialist support services and social work night-time support services; a review of the SB wardens service; and a review of early years services to implement the ‘600 hours’ pre-school care and education package that is part of the Children’s Bill.

Following the provisional confirmation of its allocation of resources for 2013/14 and 2014/15 in the local government finance settlement, the council’s future financial challenges over the next five years have been identified as a minimum of £27.3m, which means that have to find corresponding savings to meet this challenge.

Councillor David Parker, leader of the council, said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring we can continue to provide a high level of service to all residents across the Borders in spite of these on-going funding pressures.

“Due to the scale of the financial challenge facing the council next year and beyond means that we must continue to take a proactive approach to the delivery of efficiency savings to allow us to balance the budget and protect services in key priority areas.

“This is why we have put forward a set of initial revenue budget proposals early to ensure the maximisation of full year cost reductions in 2013/14.

“I am very pleased that we can also now plan longer-term with the adoption of the new five year model. These are challenging financial times but we have always been able to deliver a budget that protects frontline services and allows us to invest in important services and we are committed to continue to do this.”

SBC’s depute leader, Councillor John Mitchell said: “Our hopes and aspirations for the Borders’ various and varying communities have to be tempered annually by the need to live within our budget and maintain reserves at an adequate level.

Fellow depute leader Councillor Catriona Bhatia added: “There are no easy choices in the budget process, and we will be seeking views from the public on the proposals agreed.

“Our main aim remains to protect services for the most vulnerable, whilst removing spend on non-statutory services which we were able to provide in less austere times. We are working to provide stimulus for the local economy for the years ahead.”

Work continues on identifying changes in staff terms and conditions, alternative service delivery models, service reviews and identifying additional income sources.