Residents could face scaled down services

The council has warned neighbourhood services could be cut if savings cannot be made and if local groups do not take on more responsibilities.

The stark message was issued last week, when councillors agreed to review and consult communities on various services, including public toilets, grass cutting and maintenance of sports pitches.

The review of ‘neighbourhood operations’ is aimed at finding ways to save £450,000 by 2016. But a report before councillors stated: “The clear intention is to commence the service changes on a consultive and voluntary basis.

“However, it should be recognised that should the full extent of savings be unable to be realised through this route then an alternative route will need to be agreed.

“This is likely to require proposals being made to area forums, after discussion with members, but may not include the active participation and or agreement of community groups in delivering future services.

“This would inevitably therefore require a net reduction in the service experienced by the wider public in any given community.”

Councillors agreed to establish a community fund to help support local groups who want to take on certain roles in their area.

Rob Dickson, director of environment and infrastructure said: “The growth in the resilient communities project has given us confidence that a number of communities have the capabilities and wish to take on responsibility for improving their environment.”

Councillor David Paterson, executive member for environmental services, said: “Any decisions made will be following consultation, so it is important the view of the local community is heard by local councillors and SBC during the review.”

He added: “We want to ensure the Borders remains attractive to its residents and visitors, while making sure the council’s services are fit for purpose in the long term.”

The review will look at whether public toilets can be closed with facilities provided in ‘third party locations’, and if grass cutting in certain burial grounds can be scaled back.

It will also examine if any sporting groups can take on responsibility for pitch maintenance and if changes can be made to litter bin locations and routes used to empty them in an attempt to save council funds.