Councillors approve bleak budget cut proposals

“WE’RE in this together” – a phrase made famous by Prime Minister David Cameron, but its use by Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker emphasised the financial difficulties ahead for the local authority which has to make £27 million worth of savings in the next five years.

Mr Parker’s plea was successful as the administration’s draft budget proposal for 2013/14 was approved at SBC’s meeting last Thursday.

And despite almost £4million set to be cut from council coffers in the next financial year, Councillor Parker reiterated his pledge that frontline services would be maintained.

He told councillors: “There is no doubt that the squeeze on public spending means tough choices will have to be made.

“But we are protecting frontline services. There will be no reduction in teacher numbers, no school closures and the freeze on council tax will continue.”

Mr Parker added that while the majority of the £3.846million savings for 2013/14 have been identified, there was still around £400,000 that had to be found.

“It is a significant issue that we as a local authority need to deal with,” Councillor Parker said. “We will progress to close the gap in the weeks ahead.”

The proposal was not questioned by the opposition Conservative group, with leader Michelle Ballantyne instead saying they would prefer to consider it further before offering an opinion early next year. Mrs Ballantyne said: “From the opposition’s point of view, we want to look underneath everything.

“We don’t agree or disagree with the proposal at the moment.”

Next year’s £3.846million cut is included in the £27million revenue budget figure which has to be slashed between 2013/14 and 2017/18, described by chief financial officer David Robertson in his assessment which was also approved by councillors last week. How SBC plan to make those five-year savings will be outlined in February.