Financial challenges faced by council are laid bare

The challenges faced by Scottish Borders Council in the financial year ahead have been laid bare after its government funding settlement was revealed.
Council leader Euan Jardine.Council leader Euan Jardine.
Council leader Euan Jardine.

A new Local Government circular sets out the provisional allocations to each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

In the case of Scottish Borders Council, the table of figures estimates total expenditure of £308.765 on local government services in 2023/24 – slightly down on the £309m in 2022/23.

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The total revenue funding to be made available to the council is expected to be £260.076m, compared to £260.529m this year.

The reduced funding comes at a time when the rate of inflation is having a significant impact on the council’s finances, impacting on project costs, such as the building of new schools.

Councils rely on Scottish Government for about 80 per cent of their funding and the region’s taxpayers will be expected to contribute £48.689m to the budget in the next financial year – compared to £48.476m in 2022/23.

The new circular shows SBC will require £11.915m to cover advances from the Public Works Loans Board, and to cover costs associated with Public Private Partnership (PPP) school building projects in Earlston, Duns and Eyemouth.

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The outline settlement figures will now be analysed and discussed by senior officers and councillors ahead of SBC’s budget being finalised in February.

Despite the challenges the council is set to have a united approach in setting the budget after a political consensus was agreed.

In a highly unusual move the political groups have agreed to work together, with Conservative council leader councillor Euan Jardine saying it was “no time to be playing party politics” given the financial pressures being faced by every Borders household.

He said: “I am really pleased that our colleagues across SBC’s political groups have joined together with the aim of developing a single budget that we can all sign up to in February.”

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The leader of the opposition in the council chamber, the SNP’s councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, endorsed that approach, saying: The council’s administration has made a commitment to work with all the political groups and independent councillors to develop a budget plan and I welcome that opportunity to collaborate on one of the areas that truly impacts on every person living and working here.”

The council is also carrying out a consultation over the budget, asking members of the public to make suggestions for the next year’s revenue expenditure, including how to trim £10m from the outline budget for 2023/24.