Councillor’s plea for residents to take part in budget survey

Councillor James Anderson.Councillor James Anderson.
Councillor James Anderson.
A Berwickshire councillor has issued a plea for residents in the county to take part in Scottish Borders Council’s annual budget survey – after early figures indicated a degree of apathy.

East Berwickshire ward independent representative James Anderson is concerned that unless locals have their say they risk the focus being switched to the needs of people in the Central Borders instead.

Councillor Anderson spoke out after it was revealed that only four per cent of the responses thus far had emanated from Berwickshire.

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The annual budget survey – available online at https://scotborders.citizenspace.com/finance/budget-survey-2024-25/ – is open until midnight on January 31, 2024.

All the responses received will be shared with elected members and taken into consideration as part of the budget-setting process for the next financial year.

The survey has been launched to help a selected group of local councillors from the ruling Conservative group, the SNP opposition, the Liberal Democrats, Independents and the Green Party to draft the next council budget, which is due to be set on February 29, 2024.

A new strategic Council Plan, which is interlinked with the budget, will also be agreed at the same meeting and will set out a range of overarching priorities and associated actions. The survey gives local people the chance to feed into both.

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Councillor Anderson said: “Only 16 people have found the time to take part.

“It is really important to ensure our share of responses outnumbers Central Borders. If residents do not take part the focus will be on Central Borders again.

“So please take five minutes to make East Berwickshire an important part of the budget process and let’s show everyone East Berwickshire matters. Like, share and take part.”

Councillor Mark Rowley, SBC’s executive member for Service Delivery and Transformation, said: “Almost 900 people fed into our budget and Council Plan last year, and I’d love to see that increase. Every response is reviewed, and that feedback is something which we consider and discuss as a group as the draft budget is developed.

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“The financial challenges we are experiencing, many of which are also being felt in every household, are not going away. Although the inflation rate has reduced, costs are still increasing, in some cases quite significantly. That puts real pressure on our capital plan in particular, which we use to invest into our properties and infrastructure, such as roads and new facilities.

“We know that Council Tax will be frozen following the First Minister’s recent announcement, but we are still waiting to hear how the Scottish Government will recompense the council for this and what, if any, flexibility will be provided to councils to spend the funding we receive from the Government. This could be crucial to the final budget and the services and facilities we can continue to maintain.”