Scottish Borders Council

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Via MS Teams

Contact: Louise McGeoch Tel 01835 825005  email  lmcgeoch@scotborders.gov.uk

Link: link to live stream

Items
No. Item

1.

Convener's Remarks.

Minutes:

The Convener congratulated the following:-

 

(a)     the volunteers, the Emergency Services, McLaughlin & Harvey (the Hawick Flood Protection Scheme Contractors) and Scottish Borders Council staff for their work in Hawick and Newcastleton during the recent flooding, and extended the Council’s sympathies to those who had been impacted; and

 

(b)     Denise Hanks who had been awarded the Tweeddale Citizen of the Year for her contribution to the community over many years and in particular during the recent coronavirus pandemic.

 

DECISION

AGREED that congratulations be passed to those concerned.

 

 

2.

Minute pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Consider Minute of Scottish Borders Council held on 28 January 2021 for approval and signing by the Convener.  (Copy attached.)

 

Minutes:

The Minute of the Meeting held on 28 January 2021 was considered. 

 

DECISION

AGREED that the Minute be approved and signed by the Convener.

 

3.

Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Consider Minutes of the following Committees:-

 

(a)     Teviot & Liddesdale Area Partnership               12 January 2021

(b)     Audit & Scrutiny                                                 14 January 2021

(c)     Local Review Body                                            18 January 2021

(d)     Executive Committee                                         19 January 2021       

(e)     Civic Government Licensing                              22 January 2021

(f)      Chambers Institution Trust                                 27 January 2021

(g)     Eildon Area Partnership                                     28 January 2021

(h)     Planning & Building Standards                          1 February 2021

(i)      Lauder Common Good Fund                             2 February 2021

(j)      Executive                                                           9 February 2021

(k)     Peebles Common Good Fund                           10 February 2021

 

(Please see separate Supplement containing the public Committee Minutes.)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the following Committees had been circulated:-

 

(a)       Teviot & Liddesdale Area Partnership           12 January 2021

(b)       Audit & Scrutiny                                             14 January 2021

(c)       Local Review Body                                        18 January 2021

(d)       Executive Committee                                    19 January 2021         

(e)       Civic Government Licensing                          22 January 2021

(f)        Chambers Institution Trust                            27 January 2021

(g)       Eildon Area Partnership                                 28 January 2021

(h)       Planning & Building Standards                      1 February 2021

(i)         Lauder Common Good Fund                         2 February 2021

(j)         Executive                                                       9 February 2021

(k)       Peebles Common Good Fund                       10 February 2021

           

DECISION

APPROVED the Minutes listed above.

 

4.

Budget Communication Strategy 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 170 KB

Consider report by Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory.  (Copy attached.)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There had been circulated copies of a report by the Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory, detailing the steps taken to engage with stakeholders as part of a consultation exercise on the budget.  The report outlined the budget Communication Strategy used and provided feedback gathered from the Scottish Borders Budget Challenge.  This feedback had been considered as part of the 2021/22 Financial Planning process.  As part of the budget consultation exercise on the Council’s updated Financial Plan, the Scottish Borders Budget Challenge was made available to members of the public on the Council website from early November 2020 to 31 January 2021.  Members of the public were notified that in February 2021 we would set our next budget and early in 2021 we would also be reviewing and refreshing our Corporate Plan.  The public were given a limited number of points to allocate across seven of the biggest high-level challenges facing the Council and the Scottish Borders area.  The more points that were allocated the higher the priority.  The aim was for the public to use this online Points Simulator tool to let the Council know what their priorities were for the Scottish Borders.  As at 31 January 2021, 314 members of the public completed the Simulator and gave us their views on prioritisation of high-level challenges the Council was facing.   The report detailed the output from the budget simulator and the highest 4 priority areas were maintaining investment in roads and public infrastructure; investment in supporting businesses and creating jobs; doing more to help the environment and address climate change; and jobs, skills and training.   Mr Robertson answered Members’ questions regarding the level of flexibility in the budget, which was limited to approximately 20%, and the possible inclusion of a question asking if the public wished to spend less in any area.

 

DECISION

NOTED:-

 

(a)        the budget Communication Strategy used; and

 

(b)       the feedback from the Scottish Borders Budget Challenge.

 

5.

Council Tax 2020/2021 pdf icon PDF 188 KB

Consider report by Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory.  (Copy attached.)

Minutes:

There had been circulated copies of a report by the Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory, providing information on the proposed Council tax levels for 2021/22. The 2020/21 Financial Plan assumed a 3% inflationary increase in Council Tax for 2021/22.  The report explained that on 28 January 2021 the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, wrote to Leaders of all Scottish Local Authorities regarding the Scottish Government’s proposed budget including national intentions for Council Tax.  In recognition of the unique pressures created by the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, the Scottish Government included within the Local Government Finance Settlement an additional £90 million available to compensate Councils who choose to freeze their Council tax at 2020/21 levels with the intention of helping to protect household incomes. The Borders’ share of these resources totalled £1.955m which was broadly equivalent to a 3% increase in the Council Tax product for financial year 2021/22.  The funding was provided on a one-off basis and to date there was no confirmation that the resources provided to freeze the Council tax in 2021/22 would be included on a recurrent basis within the local government settlement. The implication, should resources to freeze the council tax in 2021/22 not be base-lined in future settlements was that a future Council tax rise of 3% would have to be enacted in 2022/23 to make up the shortfall before any funding could be raised to invest in the provision of services. Members were also asked to note that the draft Financial Plan shared with political groups assumed this funding would be permanently provided through RSG from 2021/22 in order that the Council Tax base was not eroded through this freeze.  Members supported the proposal not to increase the Council Tax given the current financial situation of many in the Scottish Borders but expressed concern regarding the possible situation next year if this funding was not provided in future years.

 

DECISION

AGREED to:-

 

(a)     accept the additional funding of £1.955m through the 2021/22 Local Government Finance Settlement to freeze Council Tax at 2020/21 levels; and

 

(b)     approve the Council Taxes to be paid in financial year 2021/22, from 1 April 2021 in respect of all chargeable dwellings in the Scottish Borders as set out in the table below, with a Band D equivalent of £1,253.91.

 

Council Tax Band

Applicable Annual Charge Per property £

A

835.94

B

975.26

C

1,114.58

D

1,253.91

E

1,647.49

F

2,037.60

G

2,455.77

H

3,072.07

 

6.

Digital Strategy pdf icon PDF 167 KB

Consider report by Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory.  (Copy attached.)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There had been circulated copies of a report by the Executive Director, Finance and Regulatory presenting a new digital strategy for the Council developed with CGI.  The strategy “Digital Borders” was designed to realise the vision of Scottish Borders becoming a Smart Rural Region.  The Strategy would seek to invest in change programmes, new ways of working and new IT infrastructure to harness the power of communities, empower individuals, reduce inequality, widen access to digital connectivity and expand the economic potential of the Region.  In doing so, the Strategy responded to the key recommendations of a recent study by the Accounts Commission.   The report explained that in September 2020 the Council agreed to extend its strategic IT partnership with CGI and in doing so agreed to the development of a new Digital Strategy for the Council.  This Strategy was designed to help address a range of key challenges facing the Borders. The Strategy would form a key part of the Council’s Fit for 2024 transformation programme designed to deliver better outcomes for citizens and a more efficient operating model for the delivery of local services either directly by the Council or in conjunction with our Community Planning Partners.  The Digital Borders Strategy was consistent with the understanding of evolving national strategy.  It would seek to enable citizens, suppliers, and local businesses, to engage effectively with the Council, empower front line staff using mobile technology, rationalise and integrate back office systems, ensure the security of data, reduce social isolation and digital exclusion in our communities, and enhance the skills and the digital capability local people through working with our schools and partner agencies.  In doing so, a range of environmental, social and economic benefits were expected to be achieved.  Significant detailed analysis work had been undertaken to date, as highlighted in Appendix 2 to the report, to assess how the opportunities identified by the Strategy should be prioritised.  Further diligence was now required to further work to refine the Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) benefits identified to date.  The Strategy therefore advocated further work to be undertaken with CGI to develop a digital roadmap covering the next 3.5 years.  A change programme and detailed benefits realisation plans for individual projects would also be delivered to enable sustainable change, track savings, achieve process efficiencies and deliver improved outcomes.  Members welcomed the report but highlighted the need to ensure that those without digital access were not left behind.  Councillor Bell, seconded by Councillor A. Anderson, moved an amendment to recommendation (b) to read “Agrees that further work be undertaken to develop the digital road map, detailed benefits realisation and change management plans for the individual projects, and that this is brought back to Council for approval”.  This amendment was unanimously accepted.  In response to a request from Councillor Thornton- Nicol it was agreed that any references to “the elderly” would be changed to “older people”.

 

DECISION

AGREED:-

 

(a)     to approve the Digital strategy outlined in the report;

 

(b)     that further work be undertaken  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Draft Anti-Poverty Strategy pdf icon PDF 147 KB

Consider report by Service Director Customer & Communities.  (Copy attached.)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

With reference to paragraph 10 of the Minute of 25 September 2020, there had been circulated copies of a report by the Service Director Customer and Communities presenting for approval the draft Scottish Borders Council Draft Anti-Poverty Strategy that had been developed following a Motion to Council by Councillor Tatler in September 2020 and set out the next steps that Scottish Borders Council and Partners planned to take in tackling poverty in the Scottish Borders.  The report explained that a Working Group had been set up to review the extent of poverty in the Scottish Borders. The Working Group had taken a forward- thinking, sustainable approach to the development of the Draft Anti-Poverty Strategy and had taken account of:-

·                Economic poverty and income

·                Fuel poverty

·                Housing poverty

·                Food poverty

·                Impact on family and community health and wellbeing

·                Digital poverty

A copy of the draft Strategy was appended to the report.  It was recognised that the draft Strategy had been developed from a mainly internal perspective to date, and that full consultation with partners, communities and other organisations would be required in order to enable the draft Strategy and Action Plan to be brought back to Council in June 2021 for final approval.  The Council was continuing to respond to the current Covid-19 pandemic and working with communities through the Community Assistance Hubs.  The learning from this work would be taken into account and how ongoing arrangements evolved.  Councillor Tatler paid tribute to those who had been involved in getting the Strategy to this point and that it had been achieved so quickly.  Members welcomed the report and the Convener added his thanks to all those involved.

 

DECISION

AGREED:-

 

(a)     to approve the Scottish Borders Draft Anti-Poverty Strategy as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report;

 

(b)     to proceed to Public Consultation to take place from the beginning of March to the end of May 2021;

 

(c)     that the Anti-Poverty Working Group would develop an approach to public consultation and create a Final Strategy and Action Plan for approval; and

 

(d)     to receive a further report in June 2021 from the Service Director Customer & Communities which would present a final Anti-Poverty Strategy and an Action Plan for approval.

 

8.

Proposed Place Making Approach pdf icon PDF 334 KB

Consider report by Service Director Assets and Infrastructure.  (Copy attached.)

Minutes:

With reference to paragraph 9 of the Minute of 17 December 2020, there had been circulated copies of a report by the Service Director Assets and Infrastructure proposing a phased introduction and development of a Place Making approach to community engagement and participation across Borders communities.  The place making proposals set out in the report were rooted in the Council’s Fit for 2024 programme, in particular the theme of Enhanced Community Engagement, Participation and Empowerment, and aimed to build on, and link with, a wide range of existing and planned national, Council-led, partnership and community work.  This included the launch of the national Place Based Investment Programme, developing the Place Principle commitment adopted by Scottish Government and COSLA and the anticipated national draft Planning regulations on Local Place Plans which were expected ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May.  In particular, the proposals aimed to build on the learning and experience of joint working with Communities and Partners in responding to the current Covid-19 pandemic and to reflect the national ambition for a Resilient Recovery which sought greater integration building on Social Renewal, inclusive growth and low carbon.  The ambition was more place-based collaboration for improved outcomes.  The place making approach would include consideration of the changing and challenging financial landscape, strategic change across the Borders, existing commitments and policy requirements, and some initial engagement on Borders wide service review. It would also include a review and mapping of all related activity taking place across organisations and communities at region and local level.  The report set out a route map for the development and implementation of the place making approach which has 4 distinct phases (with indicative timescales) as follows:

·                Preparation and Planning (March – July)

·                Production of Initial High Level Place Briefs (August – October)

·                Develop and Agree Place Programmes (September – November)

·                Delivery, Monitoring and Review (November onwards)

A further report would be brought to Council at the completion of Phase 1 and prior to the commencement of Phase 2.  Mr Curry asked that the recommendation at 2.1(b) be amended to read “Note the proposed timescales as a guide as to the ambition of the project, including the intention to bring further reports to Council.  A gateway review will be completed at the conclusion of each stage with timeframes amended accordingly based on feedback from stakeholders.  These reviews will be reported to Council at the conclusion of each stage.” Members welcomed the paper, unanimously approved the amendment, and emphasised the importance of public involvement.

 

DECISION

AGREED to:-

 

(a)     approve the model of engagement proposed; and

 

(b)     note the proposed timescales as a guide as to the ambition of the project, including the intention to bring further reports to Council.  A gateway review would be completed at the conclusion of each stage with timeframes amended accordingly based on feedback from stakeholders.  These reviews would be reported to Council at the conclusion of each stage

 

9.

Emergency Powers Reporting pdf icon PDF 114 KB

Consider report by Executive Director, Finance & Regulatory.  (Copy attached.)

Minutes:

There had been circulated copies of a report by the Executive Director, Finance & Regulatory, proposing a method for formally notifying Members of any decisions made using Emergency Powers under Standing Order No. 49(a)(i).  The report explained that Standing Order No. 49(a)(i) enabled the Chief Executive to take decisions under Emergency Powers, having consulted with various Elected Members.  The power was not used frequently and there had been five such reports in 2020.  In the past, these Emergency Powers reports were detailed in the Members’ bulletin and copies were placed in the Members’ library.  However, there was no longer a Members’ bulletin and a gap therefore existed as there was no process in place for reporting those decisions to all Members and the public.  It was therefore proposed that, in future, any decision made under Emergency Powers were included in the next available Scottish Borders Council agenda as a separate item for noting.  Subject to the provisions of the 1973 Act, these would either be considered in public or private, depending on the content of the report.  Members might wish to ask for further explanation but there would be no opportunity to change the actual decision(s). Changes were proposed to the Council’s Standing Orders and Scheme of Administration to formalise this.

 

DECISION

AGREED that:

 

(a)     once concluded, all Emergency Powers decisions would be referred to the next available meeting of Scottish Borders Council for noting;

 

(b)     a further sentence would be added at the end of Standing Order No. 49(a)(i) – “Such Emergency Powers decisions shall be reported to the next available meeting of Scottish Borders Council for noting.”; and

 

(c)     the following addition would be made to the “Other Functions” of Scottish Borders Council contained in Section III of the Scheme of Administration:

 

          “34.  Note decisions taken under Emergency Powers in Standing Order No. 49(a)(i).”

 

10.

Motion by Councillor Greenwell

Consider Motion by Councillor Greenwell in the following terms:-

 

This council notes the Scottish Government’s recent announcement of "a package of financial flexibilities and extra funding for councils to address the financial pressures caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic over the next two years".

Whilst we welcome the recognition of the financial crises local government is in, we remain concerned that this ‘financial package’ does not solve the problem.  

Only £139m of this package was ‘new’ money (£49m of which had already been announced).  The remainder of the package is only be available if local authorities make full use of the complicated set of ‘fiscal flexibilities’ set out.

But these fiscal flexibilities are no substitute for a fair funding settlement.  This council still faces a perfect financial storm of extra demand for services at a time of substantial loss of income which means impossible choices about the funding of services going forward.

This council notes that £2bn of ‘efficiencies’ have already been taken out of local government over the last decade.    We also know that the financial impact of COVID-19 will not be confined to the next few months and with Brexit looming the effects of both on the wider economy are going to make the crises in Local Government much worse.

This Council therefore pledges its support for UNISON’s campaign and calls on the Scottish Government to Plug the Gap in Local Government finance in the 2021/22 budget to:

        Reward Local Government Workers - Local Government workers have been the hidden heroes of this pandemic.  Their invaluable contribution to the COVID-19 response should be recognised and rewarded.

        Secure the long-term financial stability of Local Government – Local Government needs long term stability to protect essential jobs and services for the future.  The salami slicing of services needs to stop.

        Shape Local Government Fit for the Post-Pandemic Future – It is a matter of fact that a number of roles undertaken by local government workers have changed as a result of the pandemic.  These need to be recognised and their job evaluation reviewed as a result. 

        Fully Consolidate the Living Wage – Deliver on the existing commitment to fully consolidating the living wage for all local government workers across Scotland as committed to through our last pay deal.”

 

Minutes:

Councillor Greenwell, seconded by Councillor Tatler, moved approval of his Motion as detailed on the agenda in the following terms subject to the removal of the word “looming” after the word “Brexit

 

“This council notes the Scottish Government’s recent announcement of "a package of financial flexibilities and extra funding for councils to address the financial pressures caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic over the next two years".

Whilst we welcome the recognition of the financial crises local government is in, we remain concerned that this ‘financial package’ does not solve the problem.  

Only £139m of this package was ‘new’ money (£49m of which had already been announced).  The remainder of the package is only be available if local authorities make full use of the complicated set of ‘fiscal flexibilities’ set out.

But these fiscal flexibilities are no substitute for a fair funding settlement.  This council still faces a perfect financial storm of extra demand for services at a time of substantial loss of income which means impossible choices about the funding of services going forward.

This council notes that £2bn of ‘efficiencies’ have already been taken out of local government over the last decade.    We also know that the financial impact of COVID-19 will not be confined to the next few months and with Brexit looming the effects of both on the wider economy are going to make the crises in Local Government much worse.

This Council therefore pledges its support for UNISON’s campaign and calls on the Scottish Government to Plug the Gap in Local Government finance in the 2021/22 budget to:

        Reward Local Government Workers - Local Government workers have been the hidden heroes of this pandemic.  Their invaluable contribution to the COVID-19 response should be recognised and rewarded.

        Secure the long-term financial stability of Local Government – Local Government needs long term stability to protect essential jobs and services for the future.  The salami slicing of services needs to stop.

        Shape Local Government Fit for the Post-Pandemic Future – It is a matter of fact that a number of roles undertaken by local government workers have changed as a result of the pandemic.  These need to be recognised and their job evaluation reviewed as a result. 

        Fully Consolidate the Living Wage – Deliver on the existing commitment to fully consolidating the living wage for all local government workers across Scotland as committed to through our last pay deal.”

 

Councillor Greenwell spoke in support of his Motion.  Councillor H. Anderson, seconded by Councillor Moffat moved as an amendment that at paragraph 5 be amended by deleting “calls on” and inserting “welcomes the steps taken by”; and at bullet point “Reward for Local Government Workers” the words “should be” be replaced with “has been”

The amended paragraph 5 would now read  “This Council therefore pledges its support for UNISON’s campaign and calls on welcomes the steps taken by the Scottish Government to Plug the Gap in Local Government finance in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.

11.

Open Questions pdf icon PDF 54 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The questions submitted by Councillors Robson and H. Scott were answered. 

 

DECISION

NOTED the replies as detailed in Appendix I to this Minute.

 

12.

Private Business

Before proceeding with the private business, the following motion should be approved:-

 

“That under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the relevant paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 7A to the aforementioned Act.”

Minutes:

DECISION

AGREED under Section 50A(4) of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 to exclude the public from the meeting during consideration of the business detailed in  Appendix II to this Minute on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1, 6, 8 and 9 of Part I of Schedule 7A to the Act.

 

SUMMARY OF PRIVATE BUSINESS

 

13.

Committee Minutes

Consider private Sections of the Minutes of the following Committees:-

 

(a)     Civic Government Licensing                              22 January 2021

(b)     Chambers Institution Trust                                 27 January 2021

(c)     Lauder Common Good Fund                             2 February 2021

(d)     Executive                                                           9 February 2021

(e)     Peebles Common Good Fund                           10 February 2021

 

(Please see separate Supplement containing private Committee Minutes.)

Minutes:

The private sections of the Committee Minutes as detailed in paragraph4 of this Minute were approved.

 

14.

Borderlands

Consider report by Executive Director, Corporate Improvement & Economy.  (Copy attached.)

 

Minutes:

Councillor approved a report by the Executive Director Corporate Improvement & Economy to enter the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal Agreement.

 

MEMBER

Councillor H. Scott left during consideration of the item above.

 

 

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