Expected Scottish Government grant cut not as bad as feared but still not good, say Borders council chiefs

Tweeddale East councillors Stuart Bell, left, and Shona Haslam disagree about the likely impact of last week's Scottish Government draft council finance settlement.
Tweeddale East councillors Stuart Bell, left, and Shona Haslam disagree about the likely impact of last week's Scottish Government draft council finance settlement.
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Council finance chiefs in the Borders are anticipating a 1.5% cut in the grant they get from the Scottish Government following analysis of figures announced last week.

Scottish Borders Council’s revenue grant allocation for next financial year will be £199.095m, and there will be a reduction of around £2.4m in its general capital grant next year, they say.

Council leader Shona Haslam said: “Just because the news is not as bad as we think that does not mean that it is good news.

“We continue to be faced with a challenging financial situation. However, we have been planning for this well in advance.

“This budget settlement represents a significant cut to our revenue budget and an even larger cut to our capital budget, money that we rely on to deliver essential services.

“However, as a council, we will continue to look at all of our options while being mindful of the pressures that households in the Borders continue to face.”

Fellow Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, leader of the authority’s Scottish National Party opposition group, believes the settlement is good news, however.

“I am dismayed at the negative interpretation that the council administration are putting on the draft financial settlement,” he said.

“The quoted revenue grant allocation of £199m to our council is a cash increase on last year.

“It is correct that from this the council has to fund extra and beneficial initiatives such as a fair award pay for our teachers and staff, but the net impact is significantly better in terms of council finances than was anticipated. “It is also plain wrong to say that our general capital grant is being reduced by £2.4m.

“This might be a change from what was anticipated but it is not a reduction on last year’s capital grant.

“Contrary to the gloom from the leader of the council, the local government settlement is far better than we initially thought would be possible.

“It is a commendable draft settlement for Borderers, but it is all just draft, so perhaps the final settlement will be even better.”

A report outlining the impact of the local government finance settlement announced last week will be discussed at today’s full council meeting at Newtown, starting at 10am.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull, the council’s executive member for finance, added: “We are continuing to work very closely with officers at the council on our budget proposals which will be put forward for agreement in February 2018.”

“Between now and then, it is very important that members of the public continue to submit their views and ideas to us about our budget.”

“You can provide your ideas by visiting our consultation tool dialogue, available at scotborders.dialogue-app.com or by using #bordersbudget on Twitter or Facebook.”

Further information on the council’s budget is available at www.scotborders.gov.uk/budget