Ill feeling over health centre poll

I am writing in reference to the article published earlier this month about the proposed new Lauder health centre and the comment made in it that unless the site in Crofts Road (the play park) is approved, Lauder will lose the funding for its construction.

If this statement is correct, the exercise of holding a town ballot consulting with the Lauder public is without merit, a needless expense and an unnecessary delay.

The threat of losing the health centre funding makes the outcome a foregone conclusion – a health centre is desperately needed in Lauder.

Is this what two public bodies, the NHS and Scottish Borders Council, consider to be fair consultation?

The chosen site, which has still to be approved for sale by the common good committee, which is comprised solely of all elected SBC members, has yet to make a final decision on the sale of the land. This delay on the decision has not been the result of any group of objectors, although SBC will undoubtedly apportion blame to them. The ownership of the Crofts Road site was originally claimed by SBC – but it was subsequently found to be common good land.

Although SBC has asserted its right to dispose of this common good land as the proposed use would benefit the whole of the Lauderdale community, NHS Borders sought greater assurance, which required it to take counsel’s advice with regard to the title of the land. Only after NHS Borders was satisfied that purchase of the land would provide clear and unambiguous title to it, was the decision made to proceed with the plans to build on the play park. This position was only reached during the latter part of 2011.

One should also be aware that NHS Borders had already sought planning and building consent for an earlier application to build a two-practice health centre at the same location.

Although I applaud NHS Borders’ proactive stance with regard to pre-empting the site to be chosen for the health centre, I do wonder if it is usual for a public body to commit so financially to one site, to the exclusion of all others, unless guarantees had been given that there would be no other sites seriously considered and that any ballot with regard to the health centre would be worded in such a way that the choice would be either the play park site or no health centre at all.

This would appear to be an example of third world-style politics at its finest. NHS Borders should come out from behind SBC as it has not been well served – as this present fiasco demonstrates – and it should consult directly and meaningfully with the people of Lauder, without SBC leading the debate on the selection of a site.

Finally, for NHS Borders to threaten to take the funding away from Lauder health centre is unfair, because surely it has been SBC who misjudged the preference of Lauder and not the people of Lauder? NHS Borders will still have to address the problem of an acute need for a new Lauder health centre.

You can be assured that Lauder residents do not react well to threats. This issue will not go away. If anything, the handling of this whole matter will be kicked up the political hierarchy and become even more public – but on a more national scale.

A. C. McCord

Lauder

I write in connection with Scottish Borders Council’s referendum on the siting of the new Lauder health centre among patients of the existing surgery.

As the issue here is about the proposed disposal/building on common good land, rather than the need for a new health centre, why should all the patients be asked to vote? Surely, as the issue is on the use of common good land for building (not specifically the health centre), then why should people outwith the burgh (who should have no say whatsoever in the disposal of common good land) be asked to vote upon the disposal of common good land?

Clearly, as the proposal involves the disposal of common good land, then the only people who should have a vote in this regard are the people living within the burgh.

As we have seen, there is clearly a question regarding this proposal and SBC should have sought permission from the Court of Session – as per its own common good administration rules.

I am given to believe that two thirds of patients live outwith the burgh and may well have no opinion about Lauder’s only public amenity or where the new health centre is built – simply that they get a new one, wherever it may be. Furthermore, a number of people in the burgh have their health centre in another town/area and will therefore have no say in the disposal of this common good asset. I would say that councillors think they have a much better chance of getting a “yes” result in view of the fact that the majority of patients live outwith the burgh.

If the council wishes to administer the common good as it is supposed to (i.e. in the interests of all inhabitants of the burgh), then any referendum should be held from among the people in whose interests SBC is supposed to administer the common good.

In common with other towns which have common good assets, there appear to be numerous problems regarding ownership and the SBC’s administering of the funds/assets.

I agree that Lauder is in dire need of a new health centre – but not on our only public amenity.

Stanley Gryczka

Manse Road

Lauder