Budget details revealed by SBC leadership

Despite having to make savings of almost £29million over the five years to 2019, council leaders outlined ambitious budget proposals this week.

The updated revenue plan and 10-year capital programme, which comes in at £271million, will be put before the full council next Thursday.

SBC Headquarters

SBC Headquarters

Although there is now no agreement between the unions and the council regarding no compulsory redundancies, chief executive Tracey Logan believes none will be necessary to achieve savings.

However, it is estimated that a net 63 full-time-equivalent posts will go in the coming financial year.

Most are expected to come from ‘natural wastage’ and removal of vacant posts, with 13 early retirements or voluntary severances also factored in.

With additional pressures of almost £34m expected over the next five years, ongoing and new ‘transformation projects’ are expected to contribute more than half of the savings to match the increase in costs.

These include a review of cultural services, which may see them run by an arms-length trust, similar to sports facilities, and the recent change to employee terms and conditions, which will save more than £3.5m by 2019.

Council leader, David Parker, said: “We are announcing our revenue proposals and a number of exciting capital projects that show our commitment to the residents of the Borders during what continues to be a challenging financial period for local authorities across the country.

“As part of our budget consultation we asked the public through our online budget simulator tool what they wanted to spend the money on. They asked for extra spending on things like schools, infrastructure and older people’s services and that’s exactly what we’re proposing.”

In addition to revenue budgets totalling more than £470m over the next five years, education will benefit with capital projects worth more than £80m over a 10-year period, although some are subject to the council finding the necessary match funding.

These projects include a major redevelopment of schools in Galashiels, which could see a new large primary school developed near the Academy site, which may incorporate a number of existing primary schools.

Although these plans are unlikely to be put forward any earlier than 2019/20, a move to create a new primary school at Langlee is expected to be put on the table within four years.

Councillor Parker told The Southern: “We are planning to spend significant amounts of money redeveloping schools in Galashiels, delivering the new school in Kelso and delivering a new primary school in Duns, and also supporting our school estate. There is some very big elements of spending going in there (capital programme), whilst we continue to protect our key frontline services.”

On balancing the budget proposals, Mr Parker said: “We have to save £28m over five years, and at the same time we are having a host of increased pressures coming from demands for certain types of services, and there is less money to deliver those service on.

“It has been a challenge, but the administration has worked very hard with our officers to try and deliver programmes that will meet the needs of the Borders’ public and try and avoid some of the more unwelcome and unpalatable decisions.”