Parker admits to challenging times

SBC Headquarters
SBC Headquarters

SBC leader David Parker has warned that next year’s budget will be tough, but has pledged that key services won’t be lost, writes Bob Burgess.

The cash-strapped local authority is having to make savings of almost £28million over five years and is about to enter its fourth financial year of cost-cutting.

All of the council’s departments have had their spending reviewed and early next year the flesh will be added to the bones of revenue proposals presented to councillors by the ruling rainbow coalition last week. The biggest draw on resources is its bill for wages, which, despite staff cuts, continues to rise. And Mr Parker hasn’t ruled out compulsory pay-offs.

He told The Southern: “Savings have been achieved through changes to terms and conditions. So far, we have managed that through voluntary redundancies and natural wastage, and I would imagine that will continue for the year ahead. But as the years roll on, it is getting harder and we may have to look at compulsory redundancies.”

Holyrood is freezing council tax for the seventh year and Mr Parker commented: “We welcome the freeze which benefits many families across the Borders, but it does cause problems. There are things we would like to do which we are unable to do because of the freeze.”

The 2014-15 revenue budget is £248million. Cuts are planned at 2.5 per cent – up to 5 per cent when inflation is counted in.

Mr Parker added: “We are in a challenging period and this will be a tough budget. We will have to make decisions that won’t be welcomed, but key services will be funded. Good quality services will be provided despite the challenges.”