Council’s priorities come under fire

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SCOTTISH Borders Council is planning to splash out more than £50,000 at its headquarters at Newtown St Boswells – because of concerns the tables and chairs used for the last 23 years no longer comply with health and safety.

The Hawick News can reveal that staff concerns and subsequent wellbeing and safety risk assessments found issues with: “Moving and handling of the existing furniture which is heavy, bulky and cumbersome – and often required to be rearranged multiple times a day, usually by a single person”.

It is also understood that the carpet is frayed causing trips, while Hawick councillor George Turnbull admitted the main chambers were “generally looking tired”.

But the proposals, which are being driven by officials under the guidance of council leader David Parker, have been strongly criticised by several local councillors.

Outspoken administration member Councillor David Paterson said: “I have said that money would be better spent on other things.

“I am going to find it hard to try and justify such an expenditure to the people that complain about a deterioration in service from SBC due to the cuts inflicted on us from Westminster and Holyrood.”

While Councillor Stuart Marshall added: “I don’t expect this to be palatable with the public at all and I certainly don’t view this spend as a priority.”

The last time the main debating chamber at council headquarters was refurbished was 23 years ago, while it is understood further cash will be required for improvements to the toilets and redecoration.

Councillor Zandra Elliot said: “In these tough economic times I am sure there are other more important pressing needs.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are currently looking at health and safety issues raised regarding furniture and carpeting in the council chamber.

“No decisions have been made, and any improvements will be made only if they are necessary and appropriate.”