Published: Thursday, 23rd February 2023
We have agreed a budget today which protects services and investment into ambitious projects across the region, despite the financial pressure created by inflation.
A new Council Plan was also approved today, which complements the agreed budget and sets out the Council’s vision and responses to strategic challenges. It includes key priorities and identified outcomes Borders-wide, in addition to a series of locality actions.
It has been shaped by feedback from communities and residents, particularly through the summer Community Conversations events as well as the budget consultation process, which this year gathered 866 responses.
The new Council Plan is available online, including the identified locality actions.
The budget sees increased investment into tackling local issues and will allow the continued support of communities, those in need of help and the local economy. It was developed by a cross-party group of Councillors and received widespread support across the Council Chamber.
A five per cent increase in Council Tax is one of a number of measures being used to bridge the financial gap and enable spending to be maintained on key areas, such as roads, social care and education.
Councillor Mark Rowley, Executive Member for Service Delivery and Transformation, including finance and budget oversight
“It says so much about the current financial situation, particularly with average inflation of 10 per cent, that this budget, which is quite similar to that for 2022/23, is such positive news for the Scottish Borders.
“Being able to maintain our commitment to big projects such as new schools in Earlston, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick and Peebles, to two transformational care facilities in Hawick and Tweedbank and to community priorities such as roads maintenance and social care, is quite an achievement considering the rising costs across the board.
“Given the inflationary impact on the Council’s costs of delivering services and capital projects, the five per cent increase in Council Tax is a real terms cut to our budget. The Council Tax rise will generate £3.4m to sustain local services.
“I want to record my thanks to our Independent, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green colleagues for engaging in the very productive and collaborative process of developing this budget. I also want to thank all 866 people who completed the budget survey – I read every response, every suggestion, and that input has shaped this budget and our work for the financial year ahead.”
Council Leader, Councillor Euan Jardine
“Placing any increased cost on our residents at any time is a very difficult decision.
“The decision to increase Council Tax had to be balanced against the alternative option of making further savings to local services. We have avoided cuts to frontline services, avoided reducing financial support for our key partners, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux or Live Borders, and preserved our planned spend on vital new facilities such as schools and care homes.
“Delivering any budget is a balancing act, and our Council Tax rates will remain amongst the lowest in mainland Scotland. The £343m revenue plan for 2023/24 and investment into the region over the next three years of almost £300m through our capital plan will also do incredible things for our communities, residents, businesses and the local economy.
“We are also absolutely committed to continuing to support our most vulnerable and those in need, and I would urge anyone who is struggling to get in touch to see what assistance may be available. It is worth noting that around 40 per cent of households do not pay the full Council Tax rate due to the various exemptions and discounts available.”
- Following feedback from residents the budget proposals protect frontline services, including education, social work and roads, the latter with investment of £21.9m over the next three years
- Teacher numbers protected, and Early Learning and Childcare partners supported with additional funding to pay staff the Real Living Wage
- Commitment to capital plan projects, including three new secondary schools (Peebles, Galashiels and Hawick), two new primary schools (Earlston and Eyemouth) and two care villages (Tweedbank and Hawick) – a total of just over £205m for these projects alone
- Ongoing investment in existing schools, further flood protection works and flood studies, and targeted town centre regeneration works
- Continued investment into the environment and to programmes aimed at helping the Council achieve its Net Zero target
- Protection of funding for third sector and voluntary partners across the region
- Funding for an extension of the Demand Responsive Travel pilot scheme while a regional transport review is carried out (£304k), and funding to sustain the 101/102 bus service in Tweeddale
- Commitment to a feasibility study into fixed CCTV provision in town centres (£80k)
- One-off increase of £178k in the Community Enhancement (Small Schemes) Fund to support priority local issues not funded through other budgets. This brings the total budget for this Fund to £378k for 2023/24
- Financial assistance for Live Borders, including postponing previously planned savings, in recognition of current financial challenges such as increased energy costs
- Continued investment into improved outdoor community spaces and play parks (£2.2m over the next three years)
- Additional one-off funding of £100k to enhance existing respite care
- One-off funding of £20k to enhance neurodiversity education and awareness in schools
- Commitment to working with key partners on refreshed sport, library and culture strategies for the region
- Investment into making back office processes more efficient
- Commitment to paying all staff the Real Living Wage, including Modern Apprentices
- Council Tax levels remaining one of the lowest in mainland Scotland
- The members of the cross-party Budget Working Group were: Cllr Leagh Douglas, Cllr Marshall Douglas, Cllr Euan Jardine, Cllr Neil Mackinnon, Cllr Watson McAteer, Cllr Julie Pirone, Cllr Mark Rowley, Cllr Euan Robson, Cllr Robin Tatler and Cllr Elaine Thornton-Nicol.