Winners and losers in capital projects

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AT a time when major projects funded by Scottish Borders Council could boost job creation, the weakness of the local economy has seriously curtailed the local authority’s capital spending plans.

The slump in the new-build house market has seen so-called developer contributions, which are paid to the council by the private sector to meet the roads, education and leisure infrastructure pressures the projects generate, plummet by an estimated £2million.

Thus, just £430,000 from this source is included in the council’s proposed capital plan for the next five years, with a paltry £30,000 earmarked for 2011/12.

In addition, capital grant funding from the Scottish Government to Newtown has been reduced by 19 per cent, while SBC’s borrowings, the interest on which must be found from revenue, have been capped.

The upshot is that the council has a reduced five-year capital spending programme of £107million with just £27million due to be spent in 2011/12.

“It remains a significant capital programme, although there are some projects we can no longer afford to deliver,” said SBC’s deputy leader and financial supremo Councillor Neil Calvert when the spending plans were unveiled at the weekend.

Notable casualties include the £4.7million realignment of the notorious Dirtpot corner at the east end of Horsburgh straight near Cardrona.

The project has been in the pipeline since 2003 when a landslide blocked the main road for six weeks. Temporary works to stablise the banking above and below the corner were carried out and civil engineers have now advised the council that a strengthening of these works, at a cost of £300,000, will be sufficient to safeguard the road and motorists.

There will also be no additional budget to extend schools which have full capacities, while private sector housing grants have been cut from £3million to £1.7million, or £340,000 a year for the next five years.

Capital funds available to improve public toilets in the region has been cut from £940,000 to £465,000 over the period of the programme, with just £115,000 to be spent in 2011/12.

Two major school projects have been put back a year: the £6million relocation of Duns Primary and a £3.9million sports hall for the region’s largest secondary school at Peebles.

The construction work at the former is now schedule for 2014-16, while the Peebles High project will be carried out from 2013-15.

On the plus side, flood protection schemes in Galashiels, Hawick and Selkirk will be progressed to the tune of £2million by 2015/16, with the largest chunk next year – £185,000 – going to Selkirk. General flood protections works and emergency measures across the region will account for £180,000 in 2011/12.

SBC’s waste management programme remains on track with £1.56million allocated in the coming year and £4.51million over the next five years for improvement works, mainly at Langlee landfill site.

The new primary schools programme, which includes Duns, Clovenfords and West Linton are protected in the five-year plan, along with the creation of a sports pavilion, costing £900,000 at Lauder.