Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Risk Management in Services

Verbal Presentation by Director Infrastructure & Environment.  (Copy attached.)


1.1      A verbal presentation of Risk Management in the Assets & Infrastructure Service was delivered by the Director Infrastructure & Environment, Mr John Curry.  The Director presented the structure of risks managed across the teams noting the recent change of directorates which included Assets and Infrastructure now being called Infrastructure and Environment, and that included Planning and Building Standards which would be included in the next update.  Corporate risks managed by the Director included property, capital projects and climate change.  In response to questions from Members, Mr Curry explained that some work was being outsourced at the moment to local specialists.  That would continue but there needed to be consistency of support and marketing to make the best of the Council’s assets.  While it was noted that house prices were at a premium in some areas, a balance was needed in terms of selling of Council property to get the best return, and linking that to place making and getting the best for communities.  Discussion then centred on the full use of older buildings and properties that were difficult to convert, and issues with being factors on tenanted land (Common Good farms).  Mr Curry explained that this related to the corporate landlord model with a piece of work to do to recognise land ownership and management.  Councillor Anderson suggested that the ward-by-ward discussions take place with Councillors on property, given the successful discussions around playparks which had been held with Members, and Mr Curry advised he would pick up on this suggestion.  With regards to the relationship with Live Borders, Mr Curry confirmed that both organisations held large estates with specialisms e.g. schools and swimming pools and all were visible, public buildings.  These suffered to a certain extend with maintenance and age-related issues.  There was only so much resource available and that needed to be balanced against priorities.  There were possibly opportunities around the capital investment programme to address some age-related issues with the estate and the Council would work with Live Borders to deliver a more sustainable estate in future.  In response to a question about community centres and their potential loss of business as previous tenants had found alternative venues due to Covid closures, this would be picked up with the Live Borders Management Team as well as their Property Officer. 

1.2      The Director continued the presentation covering capital projects.  The capital programme was significant, setting out need and addressing the best ways to address these needs.  It was noted that due to the pandemic there was a materials shortage in construction including inflated prices which was having an impact on the Scottish Borders Council programme.  In terms of climate change, it was hoped to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, but bio mass heating may not be the way forward in terms of heating buildings.  Work was needed on the fabric of buildings to ensure they were as high performing as possible and not so reliant on additional heating.  Buildings also needed to be the right size to get the most value and should existing buildings be repurposed, then that needed to be taken into account at the beginning of a project.  Capital projects would continue to be monitored in light of climate change mitigations, including whether any planning policies needed to be amended.  The Executive Director, Finance & Regulatory, further advised that the new High School building projects had very tight environmental targets linked to project funding from Scottish Government which were extremely onerous, so the design of the buildings, their size and the way they would be used was fundamental.  The design team was aware of the Council’s ambitions in this regard. 


1.3      Details were also given of the Service risks associated with facilities, passenger transport, property, roads & infrastructure and waste.   In terms of facilities management, work was being undertaken on digitising the mailing system to handle confidential mail and remove where possible human error risks from the equation.  With regards to passenger transport, there was a high risk from the impact of the pandemic on operators with some routes being regarded as less viable and work had been ongoing with operators to assess the actual impact.  Work had also been undertaken along with support from Human Resources to ensure operators had adequately trained escorts in place for vulnerable children and adults.  Mr Curry advised that the Waste Transfer Station was having a fire suppressant system; health and safety inspections were being carried out across waste sites following a couple of incidents involving members of the public; and the trade waste database was being reviewed with CGI.  In terms of Utility Companies digging up roads and pavements and then providing shabby replacement materials, Mr Curry advised work was underway with the companies to set out expectations, communications to the public, etc.  The Council would need to be very clear at the start what standard was expected before they could have any recourse with the Company.  The Executive Director, Finance & Regulatory, added that it may be possible for officers to provide a briefing note on the legal position regarding road repairs and the Chief Legal Officer could be asked to provide a note of the powers of the Council.   Mr Curry confirmed that, given changes to the skills required of a future workforce, e.g. changes to heating systems, work was already with the South of Scotland Agency and Borders College on training.  In terms of bus passes for youths, this was funded but there was a cap in place and work was underway with commercial services on that.  The Waste Manager was also in conversation with Zero Waste Scotland on the changing rules on recycling and the types of materials, with an update due to be provided to Elected Members in due course. 


NOTED the update.




Scottish Borders Council

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