I wish to pay tribute to the retired journalist from Jedburgh, Bill Chisholm, for his tenacity in following and reporting to us in TheSouthern about Scottish Borders Council’s finances.
I thank him for his painful reminders of the loss of millions of pounds of Borders taxpayers’ money to the Icelandic banks. This money could have been used to avert many of the cuts to public services now proposed by SBC.
In 2007, when the Tories joined up with the Liberal Democrats and some not so Independents to form this current “rainbow alliance”, they released this joint statement:
“A bright future for the Borders. A new administration with a coalition of talent and a clear policy programme to deliver for the people of the Borders. Governance priorities – maintain the record of sound financial management and minimise council tax increases.”
What happened to this pledge? Who gave officers permission to gamble with our money on the international money markets?
The finance portfolio holder, Conservative councillor Neil Calvert, has recently publicly stated his relief that we will possibly now lose just £1million. Yes, but that is plus our share of the legal fees, plus the high interest fees on the money they have had to borrow meantime.
Unfortunately, we, the electorate, cannot get rid of senior officers and if we could they would only pull the ripcord on their huge golden parachutes and make a safe gentle landing into financial heaven. Has anyone accepted responsibility and stood down this time, apart from perhaps David Hume, although this was not cited as the reason given for his jump into financial heaven?
When I served on Scottish Borders Council, the then leader, Drew Tulley, stood down as a “matter of honour” over a mere £340,000 overspend on education because it happened on his watch. This money was not lost, it was spent on education and it was only a glitch in budget balances. Is there no honour among those currently serving us on SBC?
I am led to believe, thankfully, that around half of the present councillors are not seeking re-election next time, but I would ask the electorate to look closely at the ones who wish to remain, taking our money in generous wages to augment their public and private sector pensions for their part-time jobs.
It is time for strong, intelligent councillors with varied life experiences to represent us during the difficult times that lie ahead.
Not the time for elderly one-trip ponies or people with limited life experiences. There are too many portfolio yes men on the present executive with their snouts in the trough.
Watch the pre-election war cry of the next batch of hopefuls, disillusioned and embarrassed by their political parties in Westminster, saying: “Vote for the individual, not the party”.
Good luck with your choices in the May elections. It is time for change.