SBC’s common good decision delays were ‘indefensible’ claims Tory councillor

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In October, 2008, Scottish Borders Council agreed to a recommendation by its watchdog scrutiny panel that the charges levied on common good funds for administration and legal costs should be “reviewed immediately”.

Yet it took two years and two months for a report on the outcome of that exercise to come before elected members at the council’s final meeting of the year last week.

The delay was described at that Newtown gathering as “indefensible” by Tory backbencher Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East).

And he stressed it was not the only example of the wheels of action on council decisions moving unacceptably slowly.

He cited the motion by his party colleague Councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre (Selkirkshire) which was approved by SBC in October 2009.

It demanded that officials come up with an investment strategy for the region’s common good and trust funds.

Excluding land and property assets, the eight common good funds currently have £2million invested and managed by SBC, while trust funds account for another £1.4million.

Again, the report on the creation and implementation of a strategy to boost the returns of individual funds did not come before elected members until last week.

Mr Logan had tabled a question wondering when all decisions and recommendations taken by the council and its committees would be entered into the so-called Covalent system – SBC’s performance management software programme which was rolled out in 2006 – so they they could then be monitored.

He was told by council leader David Parker work on this was ongoing and a report on the proposed format would go to the SBC’s 11-strong performance monitoring panel in January.

Mr Logan said: “Today’s two reports come to us two years and two months and one year and two months after the original decisions were taken. Does Mr Parker not agree such delays are indefensible?”

Mr Parker said he did not agree and claimed “staffing issues” were a factor in the preparation of both common good reports.

However, he admitted: “I accept we need a better way for decisions and agreements to be swept up and brought forward more timeously.”

After the meeting, Mr Logan said the Covalent system, designed to monitor the progress of decisions and to demonstrate accountability and transparence, was “patently not working”.

Another example of SBC decisions being tardily implemented was highlighted by SNP councillor John Mitchell (Galashiels and District) who, on September 30, failed to convince the council to support the Scottish government’s bid to impose a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Although that motion fell by 14 votes to 11, the council agreed to write to the Scottish Government asking it “to work in partnership with the Westminster Government to develop a UK-wide scheme that would generate finance from the sale of alcohol that could be used to fund initiatives that encouraged the responsible consumption of alcohol”.

Three months on, Mr Mitchell wanted to know when that letter was sent and what response, if any, had been received.

Mr Parker said the letter expressing the views of the council had been sent to Scotland’s chief medical officer Harry Burns “recently” and a response was awaited.

Asked how recently the letter had been sent, Mr Parker replied: “Very, very recently”.

Mr Logan said later: “Important decisions made by the council must be acted on immediately and should not need to be chased up by councillors.”