When asked for their views during the consultation process on the future of the two services in Scotland, the council made it clear that they are more concerned about retaining the strong community partnerships that work for the area than whether or not that is within a single Scotland wide service or several region wide services.
Over the past ten years there has been a strong tradition of Lothian and Borders Police G Division working with the council, NHS Borders and other public bodies and it is seen as no coincidence that the region boasts one of the highest crime detection rates in Scotland.
This is put down to community policing and partnerships such as the introduction of police integration officers which has seen youth offending reduced significantly in the past five years.
In a report compiled by council officers which went before councillors last week, it said of the police integration officers: “These officers are based within the school environment and are used to complement the school curriculum of personal and social development, and also to support the Scottish Borders integrated children and young people’s strategy.
“These approaches illustrate integrated working practice, which widen the boundaries and scope of individual organsiations and free resources in a number of public sector organisations. This provides clear efficiencies in the public sector overall.”
With crime rates in the Borders having fallen by 28 per cent in the last five years, the report goes on: “The existing police arrangements in the Scottish Borders are working well. There is a need to harness and build upon this through the maintenance of a regional divisional approach, providing increased scope for collaboration and efficiency.”
Scottish Borders Council, which contributes £9.61 million a year to Lothian and Borders Police and £7.48 million to Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, is also concerned that changes in public sector services could have a major impact on local employment and the already fragile economy.
Approximately 30 per cent of the Borders working population is employed in the public sector (12,000) and a further 3500-4000 jobs are indirectly dependent on the public sector, adding £338 million a year to the region’s economy.
“Public expenditure is not only important in sustaining the local economy, it also supports population retention in fragile communities. The police service in the region depends on volunteering in remote and rural communities for community safety outcomes to be achieved.
“For this reason reforming police services should not be considered in isolation from other public sector reforms or funding decisions.”
Just as the police service is a vital component in local partnerships, so too is Lothian and Borders Fire Board.
“The service provided to the Scottish Borders is of a high standard and it is vital that the service continues to be delivered efficiently, effectively and promptly to local communities which is a major challenge in such a large rural area,” continues the report.
“Before any change is made Scottish Borders Council would seek assurances that service delivery, local accountability, local partnership working and links to communities are strengthened by the change.”
The response agreed by councillors at last week’s Scottish Borders Council meeting is: “The Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership response does not offer a preferred delivery option for police or fire and rescue services.
“In order to deliver a high quality service, which is responsive to the needs of local communities and builds upon the strengths of our existing partnership working arrangements, the Scottish Borders advocates the adoption of ten key principles upon which any future service model should be underpinned.”