Financial planning process 2016-2021

We asked

We are living in a difficult economic climate and on top of that more demands are being placed on the Council than ever before. As a result of this, we need your help to shape the future of Scottish Borders Council.

Do you have ideas on how the Council could do things differently to save money?

You said

Reduce the number of Councillors and payments to Councillors.

We did

The number of Councillors and Payments to Councillors are set nationally in Scotland therefore we have no opportunity to reduce costs in this area.

You said

Turn off all street lights after midnight.

We did

This opportunity was considered by the our Administration but was discounted as a feasible option to reduce costs due to negative feedback from other Local Authorities who have already made this change and concerns over perceived community safety.

You said

Use of Solar Panels / reduce heating levels in Council buildings.

We did

We are committed through our Capital and Revenue Financial Plans to develop energy efficiency options that will be of benefit to us.

You said

Use derelict buildings instead of building new ones.

We did

Options appraisals will continue to be undertaken during the planning stage of all building works to determine whether the refurbishment of existing buildings or building new is the most efficient and effective option.

You said

Increase outsourcing to drive efficiencies.

We did

Included in the Revenue Financial Plan are proposals around developing alternative service delivery models to drive efficiency which will include outsourcing options.

You said

Plant wild flower beds.

We did

As part of the Parks and Open Spaces review we are currently talking to local community groups to identify and establish where we can reduce our grass cutting and maintenance regimes, and introduce things like wild meadows, wild planting and encourage biodiversity.

You said

Plant food crop trees, shrubs and herbs on public land.

We did

As part of the Parks and Open Spaces review we are exploring this option. We do already have an example of this in Chirnside, Berwickshire where we have piloted a reduction in how often the grass is cut and have planted fruit trees.

You said

Save on fuel

We did

We have included proposals within the Financial Plan around more effective and efficient use of vehicles which will aim to make savings of £215,000 per year.

You said

Stop salting the roads

We did

We have a duty, under The Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, to provide a winter service across our road network. Section 34 of the Act states:

“A roads authority shall take such steps as they consider reasonable to prevent snow and ice endangering the safe passage of pedestrians and vehicles over public roads.”

This clearly implies that we have a responsibility to apply winter treatment to our adopted road network when a weather forecast predicts that frost/ice or snow conditions will occur to our road network. Rock salt is one of the most recognised de-icing materials available to prevent ice forming on road surfaces during freezing winter weather. The decision to apply salt to our primary road network is based on a specific weather forecast provided to us daily by the Met Office. This forecast provides predicted minimum road temperatures throughout the 24 hour forecast period and the road conditions which will occur resulting from these temperatures. The decision on whether or not to apply salt to the roads is based on this information.

You said

Reduce overtime.

We did

We have included proposals within the Financial Plan around reviewing working practices. This will include making sure overtime is used in the most efficient and effective way.

You said

Reduce the cost of Pensions.

We did

We set the minimum contribution level necessary to make sure that the pension fund and the 9,500 pensioners, scheme members and their dependants have access to a pension on retirement. We reduce the cost of the scheme by investing in a broad range of assets to maximise returns for the fund.

You said

Invest in the Human Resources team.

We did

There are no proposals included in the Financial Plan to reduce the Human Resources service as we have identified this as key to support change.

You said

Reduce the media/corporate identity.

We did

Savings are being made to reduce spend on media branding and printing costs.

You said

Cancel the Tapestry project.

We did

We are committed to the Tapestry project and believe it will lead to significant economic benefits including increased visitor numbers for the Scottish Borders. Work on Tweedbank and the emerging possibility of Galashiels being the location for the Tapestry will continue over the summer and in August 2016 a detailed report will be presented to Councillors. This will give Councillors the opportunity to decide to either:

  • proceed with Tweedbank site
  • progress with a project in Galashiels, if it proves viable
  • cancel the project

You said

Reduce back office functions.

We did

We are committed to reviewing back office support services as reflected in our Financial Plan. This will include developments through the use of ICT and business process re-engineering to maximise efficiency.

You said

Prioritise Outdoor Education.

We did

We are maintaining an investment of £152k in Outdoor Education with no budget savings from this area currently included in the Financial Plan. The Service provision includes:

  • providing the Bikeability scheme for P5-7 pupils
  • access to Whiteadder Sailing Centre
  • Mountain Biking
  • the Duke of Edinburgh scheme
  • canoeing
  • walking expeditions
  • outdoor learning residential opportunities

You said

Review Property & Assets.

We did

We have significant savings proposals included in the Financial Plan which will be delivered through a review of Property & Assets. £8.113m income is expected from property sales over the next 10 years.

You said

Build an Aqua (Water) Park.

We did

We have a limited Capital budget and as such must prioritise programmes of work. There are currently no plans included in the Capital Plan to invest in an Aqua Park.

You said

Invite voluntary tax contributions.

We did

There are no plans to introduce voluntary tax contributions.

You said

Examine cost/benefit of recycling garden waste.

We did

The withdrawal of the garden waste service has saved £450,000 per year. A cost/benefit analysis was done at the time we took the decision to remove the service.

You said

Stop the food waste collection scheme.

We did

We have a legal duty to provide food waste collections in accordance with the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012. If we were to stop the food waste collection service we would likely face legal action, potential fines and the requirement to reinstate the service.

You said

Combine jobs.

We did

We have plans in place to make the best of use of our staff thus increasing efficiency. This will include making sure professional and support services are more integrated and streamlined, and ensuring the best deployment of staff across services.

You said

Clean out all drains in the late autumn.

We did

We clean out the gullies in the Scottish Borders once a year. Blockages can occur all year round although known areas that are susceptible to blocking are inspected regularly and cleared when necessary.

You said

Do not spend £1.7million on a 3G pitch in Peebles

We did

At its meeting on 7 June 2016, our Executive Committee agreed to withdraw the planning application for the new 3G pitch at Victoria Park, Peebles to allow for a period of further consultation.

We remain committed to the development of a synthetic pitch in each main town in the Borders. Sports Scotland will provide £300,000 external funding towards the £1.6m total cost of the project.

You said

Revise school transport arrangements.

We did

Transportation is provided to mainstream primary children to and from school where the walking distance is more than 2 miles, and for secondary children where the walking distance is more than 3 miles. Taxis are provided where a connection is required or where it is more appropriate, in order to meet the needs of the area i.e. low number of pupils in the area. For children with additional needs the transport is based on individual pupil plans and needs as per the Integrated Children's Services Transport Policy. The pupil plan is agreed by the relevant social worker, teacher and parent, and is reviewed at least three times per year.

You said

Correct placement of signage on roads.

We did

New signs are installed by our Network department in line with legal guidance in The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. Any specific issues about signage should be reported to us to allow options to be considered.

You said

Prioritisation of the budget.

We did

We approach Financial Planning through a process which considers prioritisation of services; as such, budgets are increased to cover pressures where appropriate.

You said

Sponsored litter and environmental clean up.

We did

We regularly support local community groups including resilient community groups, community councils, in bloom groups and others wishing to undertake litter picks. We provide tools, safety equipment and help with collection and disposal of collected litter. We recognise and reward community involvement in litter clearing as part of the annual Scotland’s Floral Gateway competition. This saw Melrose, in particular, recognised for its efforts in tackling litter within the community.

We regularly monitor and assess our cleanliness standards and compare favourably with other similar authorities in Scotland. We report our monitoring results to Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB). In the Borders, KSB had 17 individual community initiatives registered with them in 2015 involving over 460 local people. We provided support through the provision of tools and safety equipment as well as with collection and disposal of litter. We recognise the challenge and would welcome greater business and community involvement in litter maintenance.

You said

Collect fines.

We did

It is our policy to recover fines when it is economically viable to do so and where there is a realistic chance of recovery. We perform well when compared to other Scottish Local Authorities with respect to the management of debts and the collection of income.

Administration and collection of fines is regulated by Scottish Government. Councils have powers to increase the initial fine by 50% when it remains unpaid after 28 days (which we do). The Scottish Government has plans to increase the amount that can be charged, however, a large number of those who receive fines have a limited income and collecting a larger fine would not be any easier than collecting a smaller one. Increased fines may act as a deterrent, but only if powers were in place to make sure the bulk of these could be collected and collection rates improved. This would require a change in Government legislation to enable Councils to recover money from any benefits people may receive.