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Scottish Borders Council's budget proposals are announced


SCOTTISH Borders Council (SBC) has outlined its proposed budget for the coming year.

Councillors will vote on the plans on Friday, March 19.

But today (March 12) SBC organised an online briefing for the media, during which council leader Shona Haslam said the budget would “help the Borders build back better”.

Here we take you through some key points from the proposed budget.

When is the Great Tapestry Centre opening?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the council had previously confirmed that the Great Tapestry Centre in Galashiels would not meet be ready in time for the planned spring opening.

At the budget briefing, SBC’s executive director, Rob Dickson, said the building is “nearing completion”.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to complete the recruitment and training of staff,” he said. “As things stand, we still hope to open it in the summer but we’re not in a position yet to confirm a date.”

David Robertson, SBC’s chief financial officer, added that no projects have had to be dropped for this budget.

Borders Railway extension

It was announced in November last year that the funding for the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal would be accelerated, with the full deal signed off this month.

At today’s briefing, Mrs Haslam, of the Conservatives, said a feasibility study looking into cross-border railway extensions would be “one of the first projects that gets off the ground”.

“That’s in the hands of Transport Scotland so they will be doing the feasibility study and we will be holding their feet to the fire to make sure that study is done as quickly as possible,” said Mrs Haslam.

Mrs Haslam added that the council is looking forward to the launch of the UK Government’s union connectivity review to “support our ambitions of the extension of the railway in this area”.

New jobs and job losses

According to Mr Robertson, around 40 new jobs across the council are set to be created in this new budget.

That includes a new position to help the food growing strategy for the region, as well as the creation of a sustainability officer to reduce the council’s carbon footprint.

Regarding job losses, Mr Robertson said: “I don’t think there’s one specific area that we’re really targeting in terms of post reductions, this is an ongoing process of transformation across the council.”

Replacing SBC’s diesel vehicles

According to the budget proposal, the council is dedicating up to £6 million to replace its current diesel vehicle fleet with hybrid and electric alternatives.

Mr Robertson said: “We have a significant number of ageing vehicles at the moment.”

He added that a contract for the provision of cars and vans is due to end this year, leading to 55 small diesel vehicles being replaced with electric vehicles.

“We currently run around 450 vehicles across the council’s fleets so hopefully that gives you some sort of indication of timing,” said Mr Robertson, in regards to when all vehicles will be replaced.

Investment in road network

The council has outlined plans for £1.112 million of investment to go into improving road networks in the Borders, with another £500,000 the following year.

Mark Rowley, SBC’s executive member for finance, said the investment would be going into “targeted schemes” identified by the public and council officers.

Mrs Haslam added: “No one is denying that our roads are an issue. They have been getting better.

“We are investing more and more and more into our roads and into technology to fix the roads better.”

SBC’s leader said a list of the roads where the money will be invested will be released in the coming days so the public can see “where that money is going”.

Investment in flood protection

According to the council, £91 million will be ploughed into a flood protection scheme in Hawick, with Newcastleton also set to receive some investment.

Both areas have been affected by flooding recently.

Savings

Overall, the council is aiming to make savings of £5.184 million in this budget.

That includes £897,000 per annum of savings in relation to cutting down the council’s carbon footprint.





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