Warden service to end as council budget approved
A LAST-ditch attempt by Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne to save the Borders’ community warden service failed yesterday (Thursday).
Mrs Ballantyne and her Conservative colleagues – who make up the opposition at Scottish Borders Council – said the eight-strong warden team should be retained. But at yesterday’s full council meeting, the administration managed to push through its proposal to scrap the community scheme from 2014/15 – saving £264,000 per year – as part of its approved budget of £250million for each of the next five years.
The good news for Selkirk was that SBC’s spending plans until 2017/18 include financial contributions towards the regeneration of the town centre, flood-prevention scheme and a new all-weather sports pitch.
Speaking before the meeting, Councillor Ballantyne told The Wee Paper: “The wardens have been very useful to Selkirk, in particular the problems at Knowepark Primary School.
“I have spent time with the wardens and while they tackle problems such as dog fouling they also do a lot of other work such as identifying areas where youth drinking takes place. They will be a loss.”
Saving the wardens was part of the Tories’ alternative budget launched on Monday. Other proposals included spending an extra £5million on road maintenance and shelling out almost £200,000 not to increase school meal prices.
They wanted to pay for their proposals by making central departmental staff cuts as well as restructuring the workforce, for a combined saving of £6.3million.
The 10-strong party wanted to scrap SBC newspaper SB Connect and make Newtown a paper-free headquarters – saving £335,000.
And the Tories also urged the administration to do away with its no compulsory redundancies policy. Mrs Ballantyne told us on Monday: “I don’t think a blanket no compulsory redundancy policy is the right way to deliver services.”
But council leader David Parker dismissed the Conservatives’ findings, saying its £6.3million figure for staff savings did not add up.
He said: “This could only happen if you were to lose a significant number of posts and if you do that, you have to compensate people for the loss of their employment. This leaves a significant hole in their budget as they can’t get remotely close to their projected £11million of savings.
“That means that the things that they want to do, they simply can’t afford, and therefore they can promise the earth, but as their figures demonstrate, they can’t actually pay for it.”
Despite the loss of the warden service, Mrs Ballantyne admitted the budget would bring benefits for the royal burgh.
She said: “The council have included funding for a new artificial pitch, town centre improvements and contribution to Selkirk’s flood prevention scheme, which is great news. I think Selkirk has been overlooked in favour of Melrose and Galashiels in the past, but now it is getting its chance.”
The five-year budget has been designed to shave £27million off SBC spending.
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Weather for Selkirk
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: North east