Council’s Peebles meeting questioned

THE decision to hold two council meetings outwith Newtown St Boswells has been questioned, writes Kenny Paterson.

Councillors met last Thursday at Peebles High School, the first time in eight years that the local authority has met away from its headquarters.

A meeting is due to be held in Berwickshire later this year in an attempt to engage with the public.

Hawick councillor Zandra Elliot, after tabling her question regarding the additional costs of such a move, noted the less-than-full public gallery in the school’s main hall.

She queried whether the switch of venue was necessary for cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council.

Depute leader John Mitchell, whose responsibility is finance, said the councillor and staff expenses tally was not known.

He said: “Much will depend on the number of councillors and officers attending the meeting, where they live, whether they will share transport, and whether they claim any expenses.

“While there may be an increase in cost associated with councillors travelling from the eastern part of the Borders, there should be a commensurate lower cost for those travelling from the western part of the Borders.

“It has been assumed that there is no disruption to the running of the school and no costs in setting up the assembly hall at Peebles High School.

“Once the actual costs are known, when claims for expenses are submitted by councillors and officers, a more definitive answer can be provided.”

Fellow Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall told us: “The travelling expenses of members from Hawick for that meeting will have doubled and I believe that the next one is to be held in Berwickshire, so that will add more expense.

“It will be very interesting what the final costs are for councillors and officials’ attending both these meetings.”