Extensive investment programme for all Borders schools proposed in Administration’s budget plans

3 Councillors with budget plans

Published: Thursday, 21st February 2019

Borders schools will be transformed into world-class teaching and learning environments thanks to the Conservative/Independent Administration’s budget plans.

Inspire Learning Programme

Millions of pounds will be invested in new and improved schools, with £16 million invested over a ten year period in a new ‘Inspire Learning’ programme across all primary and secondary schools in order to make sure children learn in the best possible environments, with the latest technology at their fingertips.

The programme is aimed at raising attainment, supporting equity and inclusion for all children and young people. It will include iPads being provided to all P6-S6 pupils, and at a ratio of one per every five P1-P5 pupils from 2019/20. The rollout will be completed within just two years.

Information on the proposed Inspire Learning programme including FAQs, can be found on our website.

New Schools

The Administration will also invest:

  •  £16m for the replacement of Eyemouth Primary School
  •  £9m for a new Earlston Primary School
  •  Funding towards a new Galashiels Academy and to accelerate a new Hawick High School

Budget proposals

As part of the budget proposals:

  • Frontline services such as the frequency of waste and recycling collections will remain unchanged.
  • There will be no change to public toilet provision in 2019/20.
  • A second Community Action Team (CAT) for the Borders will be permanently funded.
  • A new recycling awareness campaign will be funded to encourage people to recycle properly in order to reduce landfill tax costs and pollution.
  • More money than ever before will be available for communities to allocate as they see fit through a new £1.167m consolidated Community Fund. This will make it easier than ever before for communities to access funding and to have a say in how it is used in their area. 
  • An extra £2.3m will also be spent on roads and pavements with £86m investment for road/transport infrastructure over 10 years being planned.
  • An additional £3million will be invested in new extra care housing for projects in Hawick, Kelso, Eyemouth and Peebles in addition to those already committed to at Todlaw, Duns and Langhaugh, Galashiels.
  • A motion will be put forward to increase the previously agreed council tax by 1%, meaning the Borders will see a 4% council tax rise from this April as opposed to the maximum 4.79% allowed by the Scottish Government.

The Council’s five year revenue budget and 10 year capital plans will be set at a meeting of the full Council on Thursday 28 February.

Community funding

The Administration is also proposing to invest in a new £1.16m consolidated community fund to put communities at the heart of local decision making. This will make it easier than ever before for communities to access funding and to have a say in how it is used in their area.  An easier application process and simpler eligibility criteria will be developed.

Extra Care Housing

The Conservative and Independent Administration is proposing invest over £3million in new extra care housing as part its budget plans for 2019/20 and beyond.

Extra care housing offers the possibility of supporting higher levels of dependency but also provides an environment for lively and active old age. It is based on self-contained flats, rather than small rooms as in residential care, and offers care and support at the same level as residential care, for those that need it, available 24 hours a day.

 

Council Leader, Shona Haslam 

“Despite being faced with significant financial challenges, this Administration is presenting a really exciting budget for the Borders, packed with huge investment plans at a truly vital time for our economy.   

“It has not been an easy process but central to our thinking, for the entire process, was our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable individuals, families and communities of the Borders.  We have had to make over £8million in savings for this year, this is combined with £16million last year - it has been a very challenging budget.

“While other Council areas are making cuts to frontline services, we are making one of the biggest investment in history for our schools in terms of digital transformation and we are hugely proud of that.

“The time is now, we simply cannot hold off a project like this. Our schools absolutely will be the best learning and teaching environments in the country, putting pupils at the heart of learning. There is no doubt this is a significant investment but in every sense, this is about investing in our future.

“Combined with our plans for new schools and school improvements, the Inspire Learning programme will make our schools world-class and enhance the excellent learning opportunities that our fabulous teachers already provide.

“The world is evolving and our classrooms must keep up in order to prepare our young people for the future. 
“We have always said that we will continue to invest in programmes which make the Borders one of the best areas in Scotland to live, work and visit, and this proposal, alongside our other investment plans confirms our commitment to that.”

 

Councillor Robin Tatler, Executive Member for Finance

“This is, without doubt, a positive budget for the Borders given the scale of the financial challenges we face. A balanced budget is increasingly hard to achieve, particularly when public expectations are so high, demand for various services is increasing and public finances are reducing.

“The decision to propose a four per cent increase to council tax for example, was not an easy one. However, a small increase of 88p per week for a Band D property will support many areas of our ambitious budget including accelerating the replacement of Hawick High School and some much needed additional funds for our roads and pavements. 

“Council Tax makes up less than a quarter of all the funding the Council receives and this increase is only the third in 12 years, during which time the funds the Council receives from other sources has reduced. In real terms, this year we have received a reduction of nearly 4% in the cash settlement from the Scottish Government and this increase will help to make up some of the shortfall. 

“Council tax in the Borders still remains amongst the lowest in Scotland and we believe that Borderers continue to receive good value for money in the services that they receive.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Depute Leader of SBC, added: “This Administration has worked extremely hard to make sure that our budget will support the most vulnerable in our communities, help our children and young people achieve their full potential and protect the services that people use on a daily basis.

“It also provides the funding for major projects that will protect towns from flooding, regenerate high streets, create new and high quality jobs and increase the number of tourists coming to the Borders as well as attracting people to come and live and work here.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the public to play their part going forward which is why we are proposing an overhaul of the community funding system to make it easier than ever before to access funding, and to have a say on how funding in local areas is used.  
“We also recognise the importance of everyone playing their part in reducing costs associated with not recycling properly and will commit to a new campaign to ensure that everyone knows what they can recycle and why it is important.”

 

Councillor Carol Hamilton, Executive Member for Children and Young People

“From the outset, this Administration committed to delivering on the Council’s School Estates Review, providing improved school facilities across the region, and these latest proposals continue that pledge.

“Following significant work behind the scenes, and consultation with the communities, it is clear that Eyemouth and Earlston primaries are at the top of the priority list for replacement and we will deliver on that.

“Galashiels Academy was identified as the most immediate priority in our secondary school estate and we’ve identified £3m to enable that to be progressed through a revenue funded model, like that at the new Kelso High.

“This Administration has also been able to allocate £20m match funding for a capital funded model to deliver a new Hawick High School faster than initially thought, providing the necessary additional funding is made available by the Scottish Government.

“The Council has invested millions of pounds in improvements across school buildings in recent years, including new early years facilities, and this Administration will continue to fund that programme of works in addition to providing brand new schools where they are required, to support our young people, staff and communities.

“The programme of secondary school replacements has been identified and we’re committing the necessary money to ensure this programme is progressed, and in Hawick’s case accelerated. By the end of this Administration we also hope to be able to identify the timeline for the replacement of Selkirk and Peebles high schools too.”

 

Councillor Gordon Edgar, Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure

“We recognise the importance of our road network to everyone in the Scottish Borders, and to the tourism economy, and that’s why we’ve committed extra funding over the next four years.

“That is on top of an overall budget that is being maintained and runs to over £80m over the next 10 years.

“The Administration is also proposing minimal changes to the current level of bus subsidies, protecting vital local services.

“However, the level of some of the subsidies for individual routes, or the level of use in some instances, is simply unsustainable and we want to open up a discussion with transport operators, bus users, our partners and the public generally to develop sustainable, flexible and cost effective transport services for the future.”

 

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and Locality Services

“We are absolutely committed to putting communities at the heart of local decision making. Now that we’ve identified local priorities we can now put this into action through Area Partnerships.

“As well as making it clearer and easier for community groups and organisations to apply for Council funding, we are proposing that these funds are managed locally by Area Partnerships which will enable local people to have a genuine say in how this money is spent.

“This will empower community groups and organisations and help address key local issues, enabling these groups and individuals to play their part in their community.

“We know that many existing groups and individuals in our communities are keen to take on a greater role but have concerns, for example about insurance. For that reason we’ll put in place the necessary support to help them through all the processes and get them up and running.”

 

Councillor Mark Rowley, Executive Member for Business and Economic Development

“The Council has already committed over £3.5m to extra care housing developments at Todlaw, Duns and Langhaugh, Galashiels, and we want to invest a further £3m to help take forward plans for similar projects in Hawick, Kelso, Eyemouth and Peebles.

“The Scottish Borders is facing a demographic challenge where in 20 years half of all households are predicted to be over the age of 65. Services for older people must be ready for that and this Administration is prepared to commit funding to that end.

“It is equally important however that we encourage more young Borderers to stay, live and work in the area, and attract more people of working age to the area. Our budget plans seek to do just that too, and support our ongoing work with a range of partners to tackle this challenge.”