THE Administration of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is outlining its final revenue proposals covering the period 2013/14 to 2017/18, and its 10 year capital budget proposals 2013/14 - 2022/23.
The Administration has for the first time prepared a balanced five year plan recognising the scale of the challenge facing local authorities over the next five years. SBC continues to take proactive steps to ensure a high level of service is delivered to all residents across the Borders as it faces on-going funding pressures. The Council's proposed revenue budget for 2013/14, which will be debated at the Council meeting on the 7 February, is £248.6 million.
Councillor David Parker, Leader of the Council, said: "I am pleased that we are now able to publish a balanced five year revenue budget, and a capital programme which covers the next ten years. Setting our budget is always a challenge, especially given the continuing difficult economic circumstances. However, I believe we have come up with solutions which maintain this Council on a sound financial footing and preserve our frontline services."
Councillor John Mitchell, Depute Leader (with responsibility for Finance), said: "The Administration has set a five year revenue financial plan with firm figures in year one for the delivery of savings to balance the Council's books. For the remaining four years SBC has set a clear direction of travel to deliver a number of service efficiencies and transformational projects, and we are taking the decision to start that work now in order to maximise the prospects for delivery and meet the challenges we face in the best way possible."
Councillor Catriona Bhatia, Depute Leader (with responsibility for Health Service), added: "The Administration has worked extremely hard since its creation last year to produce a balanced budget which aims to meet demographic demands whilst maintaining quality services for the Borders. We are also introducing our capital plan which shows an on-going commitment to investing in our infrastructure, and by doing so, helping to stimulate the local economy."
Highlights of the revenue budget plans include:
· No council tax increase in 2013/14, which will be frozen at 2007/08 levels for the sixth successive year
· No compulsory redundancies
· A living wage of £7.50 for the lowest paid staff from April 2013
· Maintaining the numbers of teachers employed by SBC in 2013/14
· Provision of £6.5m to fund a range of inflationary and service cost pressures
· An extra £1.4m budget per annum to address social work pressures in home care, learning disabilities and residential care
· An extra £6.26m to meet demographic pressures from the increasing number of elderly people and increasing number of vulnerable children - many of whom have complex social, emotional and behavioural needs
Highlights of the 10 year capital plan include:
· £51m Investment in roads, lighting and bridges - including £5m to upgrade street lighting with modern energy efficient lamps.
· Flood protection schemes - £10.4m including Galashiels and the Skip Running Burn in Jedburgh. 20% funding is also made available representing the Council's share of costs for flood prevention schemes for Hawick and Selkirk. 80% funding is anticipated from central government
· Waste management - £5.9m.
· New Kelso High School - £18.5m
· Improved sports facilities at Peebles High School - £4.3m
· New synthetic sports pitch in Selkirk - £0.9m in 2015/16
· Investment of £8.4m in broadband
· £3.6m to be invested in social work property
· £0.05m per annum to be invested in play facilities across the borders
· £3.2m, largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to redevelop Wilton Lodge Park in Hawick
· £4.4m for new computers in schools
· £0.05m to help prevent falls in older people's homes
SBC was faced with a funding gap in 2013/14 of around £3.8m due to issues such as increased pension costs, pay protection for teachers, inflation pressures and the demands brought about by an increasing elderly population. A number of initial measures were proposed and approved in December 2013 to reduce this gap, including:
* A review of the Social Emotional and Behavioural Need Service (SEBN)
* A review of social work business support services delivery model; all Social Care & Health Specialist Support Services and Social Work night-time support service
* A review of the SB Wardens Service with the proposal to cease the service by 2014/15.
* A review of Early Years delivery model as part of the implementation of the '600 hours' pre-school care and education package as part of the Children's Bill.
A number of further savings have been put forward in the Administration's budget plans. These include changes to terms and conditions for staff, the development of an integrated waste strategy, a review of the school estate, and further integration of children's services.
SBC's final budget will be agreed by councillors at a meeting at Council HQ in Newtown St Boswells on Thursday, February 7.
FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT HOW THE BUDGET WILL AFFECT YOU, PICK UP A COPY OF THIS WEEK'S BORDER TELEGRAPH - OUT NOW!