‘Toughest and most challenging’ period in council’s history

The coronavirus pandemic has been ‘without doubt the toughest and most challenging’ period Scottish Borders Council has ever had to face, according to its re-appointed leader. 

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 30th July 2020, 5:10 pm
Council leader Shona Haslam at Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.
Council leader Shona Haslam at Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

At a virtual meeting of the council on Thursday July 30, councillors voted to take back emergency powers from the chief executive, Tracey Logan, and hand them to Tweeddale East councillor Shona Haslam, who leads the Conservative/Independent group. 

Speaking at the meeting, councillor Haslam said: “The last five months have been, without doubt, the toughest and most challenging that this council has ever had to face.

“The pressures on our staff and resources have been immense, the impact will be felt for years and will not be fully known for some time.

“Throughout this pandemic the officers of this council have had to take very swift decisions and react quickly to government guidance and I want to thank them for the efforts that they have made to fully consult with councillors all the way along.

“I also want to thank councillor Stuart Bell who has worked collegiately with myself throughout this situation to ensure that all councillors have felt fully engaged in any decisions that have been made. 

“I want to thank the officers, staff and partners of the council for their incredible work over the last five months to respond to this ever changing situation that we have found ourselves in.

“But I also want to particularly mention all of the incredible community volunteers, resilient community groups and Covid-19 response groups who have done so much in our community.  

“The level of community engagement and co-working with council services has been amazing to see and this is something that we must hold onto, and learn from for the future.”

Fellow Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, who leads the main SNP opposition at the council, said: “As I said in March when these emergency powers were agreed, ‘bold measures are needed to stop this pandemic overwhelming our way of life’.

“Bold measures were taken, and now, the degree of normality that allows full-education to restart in our schools is the right point to resume normal council business, and switch off the emergency provisions.

“But I remind colleagues that two of the three concerns I expressed in March are still relevant.

“Whilst there is now a mechanism to continue making planning decisions, there remains a backlog of deferred decisions, and the financial consequences of the lockdown are significant and growing – whilst the same problem is facing other local authorities, that doesn’t make it easier to address.

“I tried to give a message of hope in March and whilst there is more to hope for; there is now no less uncertainty.

“It is estimated that only 5% of the Scottish population have actually had Covid-19; which means that the best that almost all of us can hope, is that we may personally not be susceptible to a devastating infection that is all around us.

“That is why in thanking the council staff for their application and flexibility, and also thanking the general public for their forbearance, I particularly want to thank the hundreds of ordinary, neighbourly folk who have been supporting local community resilience.”

Joseph Anderson , Local Democracy Reporting Service