Full upfront funding for new schools, two new care homes and additional roads investment agreed in budget

The word 'budget' under a magnifying glass

Published: Friday, 28th February 2020

The money required to deliver three secondary schools, two new care homes and extra investment in the Borders’ road network has been agreed.

Our five year revenue budget and 10-year capital plan were agreed yesterday, the Administration’s proposals being approved by 21 votes to 11, with one abstention.

Due to changes to the Scottish Government’s funding model for schools the full upfront costs of replacing the secondary schools in Galashiels and Hawick will have to be funded by ourselves, and as such an increase of 4.84 per cent in Council Tax has been needed to raise the necessary funds, rather than the previously anticipated 3 per cent increase. Investment to bring forward a major transformation of Peebles High School is also included in the budget.

In the years prior to the delivery of these schools, the £2.2m extra raised by the extra 1.84 per cent Council Tax will be allocated to roads repairs in response to feedback received from Borderers who took part in the online consultation over our budget. The increase will also facilitate the building of two 60-bed care homes, one in Hawick to replace the ageing Deanfield facility and another in the central Borders.

Budget highlights

  • £287m of investment across a variety of projects and works which will reduce our carbon footprint and adapt to climate change
  • £83.6m over 10 years for roads and infrastructure
  • Almost £1.5m over the next three years for town centre regeneration
  • Nearly £4m to improve and refurbish sport and leisure facilities
  • £18.5m for two new residential care homes
  • £50.8m for a new secondary school in Galashiels
  • £48.4m to replace Hawick High School

Council Leader, Councillor Shona Haslam

“The decision to increase Council Tax has not been an easy one, however there really was little choice this year.

“On the face of it the financial settlement from the Scottish Government provided slightly more money for the Council than last year, but there are increasing restrictions on how this can be spent and the increase does not reflect the rising cost of delivering services.

“Not raising Council Tax above 3 per cent would simply have resulted in cuts to frontline services and significant delays to the delivery of vital projects, which would fail to address the needs of both our young people and our ageing population.

“With the extra 42p per week, based on a Band D property, raised by the extra 1.84 per cent we are able to invest extra money into our road network, which Borderers told us through the budget consultation was their top priority. It will also leverage the full up-front funding required to replace Galashiels Academy and Hawick High School, transform Peebles High School and deliver two much-needed care homes.

“It is important to emphasise that the money raised by the extra 1.84 per cent will be allocated to these projects only, while the underlying funds from the already anticipated 3 per cent increase will protect frontline services.”

Councillor Robin Tatler, Executive Member for Finance

“We recognise that increasing the cost of Council Tax will impact on people’s pockets, but we have to balance that with their desire for services to continue to be provided at the same level as before, at the very least, and increasing need for some services that we absolutely have to provide.

“Even allowing for this increase we will still have one of the lowest Council Tax rates in Scotland and there are a range of discounts available to people, which we are going to make sure that everyone is aware of to ensure that those that are eligible get the help they are entitled to.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Depute Leader

“Over the next five years the Council has to make almost £29m of savings, starting with over £8m next year.

“This is a challenge that gets harder every year, which is why we continue to focus on how services can be delivered more efficiently and effectively without negatively impacting on our communities, including looking at the use of new technology.

“However, there are many positive stories in this year’s budget and despite the financial challenges we are able to deliver vital services to the public and invest in major projects which will support communities for many years to come.”