AFTER failing in a bid to save Selkirk’s registry office from closure, Councillor Kenneth Gunn has issued a plea for death certificates to continue to be issued in the town, writes Andrew Keddie.
Mr Gunn, who represents Selkirkshire on Scottish Borders Council, was one of only two elected members to oppose controversial plans to close the office, which is based at the Municipal Buildings, which also hosts the SBC contact centre, in High Street.
The registry offices in Lauder, Jedburgh and Newcastleton will also go to achieve total staff savings of nearly £50,000.
The closures were recommended in a report on SBC’s Customer First programme, which councillors considered at their budget meeting at Newtown last week. The same report sought and received approval to investigate the integration of contact centres and libraries in several towns, including Selkirk. It did, however, reveal that some customer services advisers would be trained to register births in the town.
But only Mr Gunn and Hawick independent councillor David Paterson, whose ward includes Newcastleton, moved against the report’s recommendations which were approved by 26 votes to two.
Mr Gunn told the meeting: “Asking for Souters to register births anywhere else but Selkirk would equate with asking that Cockneys could be Cockneys without the sound the Bow Bells. I am delighted that, as I have suggested, contact centre staff will be trained to register births in the Royal and Ancient Burgh, but can I make a plea for the registration of deaths to continue in Selkirk, if not at the contact centre then perhaps at the Health Centre?
“The local undertakers CR Low are now in their third generation and have provided a first-class service to Souters for many years. They should not have extra burdens, including a minimum 12-mile round trip to Galashiels imposed on them.”
From the public benches at Monday’s meeting of the community council, Dougie Purvies expressed concern at the changes and was given an assurance by Mr Gunn’s SBC colleague Councillor Vicky Davidson that the recently-renovated contact centre at the Municipal Buildings would not be moving.
And she confirmed that Council Tax could still be paid there by cheque or card, but that cash payments from next month would need to be made at a Paypoint.
Mr Gunn, in a written report to the community council, stated: “Library and museums staff already share office space at the Municipal Buildings with the contact centre staff and, with hundreds of thousands of pounds having been spent in the last year on what is an excellent facility, let us work together to see what other uses we can find the likes of the registry office and any spare space at the library.”