SIR, I refer to the letter from Rab Stewart printed in the Border Telegraph on May 27 regarding the council’s decision to approve early retirement and voluntary severance packages for 38 teachers. Mr Stewart, in his letter, questions the benefit that would be derived from allowing teachers to retire early.

The report sets out that the costs of allowing teachers to retire would be repaid in full in under 1.5 years, delivering a saving to the council of £720,834 in year one. The report is very clear that these posts will have to be filled on a permanent basis and that each individual application has been closely examined and validated to ensure that there is a robust case supporting their application. The financial benefits to be delivered by approval of these packages form the main consideration helping the council to manage its workforce effectively and reduce overall the employment costs to the council.

I can assure Mr Stewart that there has been no 'raid’ on the other departmental budgets in order to fund the early retiral/voluntary severance of the 38 staff in question. The report makes it clear that the retirals will be funded from a combination of the remaining budget approved by the council for early retiral/voluntary severance, surplus funding carried forward by the Education department from previous years; budgets and savings made by the council in the costs of financing capital expenditure through lower borrowing costs.

No frontline services will be adversely affected by this decision. The council believes that this decision, along with the other examples noted in Mr Stewart’s letter, do have a sound basis, are backed by a sound rationale and ultimately benefit the taxpayers of the Borders.

I am, etc.

Councillor John Mitchell Depute leader (finance).