Budget Dialogue tool feedback 2016-17

The online Dialogue community engagement tool generated 34 individual ideas with 91 comments on these ideas from other members of the public. 

These ideas have been used to inform the 2016/17 – 2020/21 financial planning process.  

We asked

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

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

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 the Council has 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 Administration but was discounted as a feasible option to reduce costs due to negative feedback from other Local Authorities who have already implemented this change and concerns over perceived community safety.

You said

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

We did

The Council is committed through its Capital and Revenue Financial Plans to develop energy efficiency options to maximise benefits to the Council.

You said

Using derelict buildings instead of building new.

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

Plant wild flower beds.

We did

As part of the Parks and Open Spaces review we are currently engaging with local community groups to identify and establish were we can reduce our grass cutting and maintenance regimes and introduce things like wild meadows and 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 the frequency of grass cutting and have planted fruit trees.

You said

Save on fuel.

We did

The Council has included proposals within the Financial Plan around mileage efficiencies and more effective and efficient use of vehicles. (£0.215m)

You said

Stop salting roads.

We did

The Council has a duty, under The Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, to provide a winter service across its road network and Section 34 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 intimates that Scottish Borders Council has a responsibility to apply winter treatment to its adopted road network when a weather forecast predicts that frost/ice or snow conditions will occur to its 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 the Council’s primary road network is taken based on a specific weather forecast provide to the Council daily by the Met Office. This forecast provides predicted minimum road temperatures throughout the 24 hour forecast period and the resultant road conditions which will occur, resulting from these temperatures. It is on this information that the decision on whether or not to apply salt to the roads is based.

You said

Reduce overtime.

We did

The Council has included proposals within the Financial Plan around reviewing Working Practices which will include ensuring overtime is deployed in the most efficient and effective way.

You said

Reduce the cost of pensions.

We did

The Council sets the minimum contribution level necessary to ensure that the pension fund and the 9,500 pensioners, scheme members and their dependants have access to a pension on retirement.  The Council reduces the cost of the scheme by investing in a range of asset classes to maximise returns for the fund and minimise the burden on the taxpayer.

You said

Invest in HR team.

We did

There are no proposals included in the Financial Plan to reduce the HR service as the Council has identified this as a key support to enable Transformational change.

You said

Reduce the media/Corporate identity.

We did

Savings are being made in the current year to reduce spend on media branding and printing costs.

You said

Cancel the Tapestry project.

We did

The Council is committed to the Tapestry project and believes it will provide a focal point for the development of the Rail head and the wider development of the Tweedbank business park and will lead to significant economic benefits including increased visitor numbers for the Scottish Borders.

You said

Reduce back office functions

We did

The Council is committed to reviewing back office support services as reflected in the Council’s 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

As reflected in the Financial Plan the Council is maintaining an investment of £152k in Outdoor Education with no budget savings from this area currently included in the 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 and outdoor learning residential opportunities.

You said

Review Property & Assets

We did

The Council have significant savings proposals included in the Financial Plan which will be delivered through a review of Property & Assets.  Capital receipts of £8.113m are anticipated through property disposals over the 10 year life of the 2016/17 Capital Plan.

You said

Build an Aqua (Water) Park

We did

The Council has a restricted 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

No plans are in place to introduce voluntary tax contributions.

You said

Examine cost/benefit of recycling garden waste.

We did

The withdrawal of the garden waste service has contributed a net £450,000 per annum to the Council’s overall budget deficit and a cost/benefit analysis was done at the time the Council took the decision to remove the service.

You said

Stop the food waste collection scheme.

We did

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

You said

Amalgamate jobs.

We did

As reflected in the Financial Plan the Council has plans in place to make the best of use of its staff thus increasing efficiency.  This will include ensuring professional and support services are more integrated and streamlined and ensuring the optimum deployment of staff across services.

You said

Clean out all drains in the late autumn.

We did

We clean out the gullies within 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

The Council is committed to the development of a synthetic pitch in each main town in the Borders.  Sports Scotland will provide £300k 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 in excess of 2 miles and for secondary children where the walking distance is in excess of 3 miles. Taxis are provided where a connection is required or where it is more appropriate to meet the needs of the area i.e. low number of pupils in the area.  For Additional Needs children the transport provision is based on the 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 the Council’s Network department in line with Statutory guidance as laid down in “The Traffic Signs and General Directions 2002”, any specific issues around signage should be reported to the Council to allow options to be considered.

You said

Prioritisation of the budget.

We did

The Council approaches 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

Locally, we regularly support community groups including resilient community groups, community councils, in bloom groups and others wishing to undertake litter picks providing 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, which saw Melrose recognised in particular for its efforts in tackling litter within the community.  Nationally, we regularly monitor and assess our cleanliness standards and compare favourably with other similar authorities in Scotland, reporting 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, which SBC supporting through the provision of tools and safety equipment as well as with collection and disposal of litter.  SBC recognises the challenge and would welcome greater business and community involvement in litter maintenance.

You said

Collect fines

We did

It is Council policy to recover fines when it is economically viable to do so and where there is a realistic prospect of recovery.  The Council performs 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 and Councils have the powers to increase the initial fine by 50% where it remains unpaid after 28 days (which SBC do). The Scottish Government have plans to increase the amount that can be charged, however, a substantial number of those who receive fines have limited means 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 ensure the bulk of these could be collected and this would require Government legislation to enable Councils to recover from Benefit income, for example, to improve collection rates.