Allocation of area forum cash unfair on Hawick, claims provost

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer.
Hawick councillor Watson McAteer.

Hawick is missing out on more than £20,000 in much-needed investment because of an unfair distribution formula, according to town provost Watson McAteer.

“It’s sad that Hawick is once again at the bottom of the investment league in the Borders,” reflected Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer after he failed to secure Teviot and Liddesdale’s locality committee a bigger share of a new £500,000 community fund set up by Scottish Borders Council.

The so-called participatory budget scheme, to be run for a pilot period of one year, aims to devolve decisions on the funding of local projects away from Newtown.

Teviot and Liddesdale’s is one of five locality committees, formerly area forums, now given powers to determine funding applications.

Under a population-based distribution system recommended for approval by the council on Tuesday, Teviot and Liddesdale, covering Hawick and Newcastleton, is at the bottom of the pile, receiving just £78,000.

By contrast, Eildon – covering Galashiels, Selkirk and Melrose – will get £154,000, while Cheviot, Tweeddale and Berwickshire will receive £86,000, £91,000 and £91,000 respectively.

Mr McAteer claimed that was “patently unfair”.

“While I commend this scheme as a way of empowering our communities and developing worthwhile and beneficial projects, any cash allocation based purely on population is flawed,” he said.

He moved that the distribution calculation should be weighted to reflect the number of communities in each area identified as deprived in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation.

If that formula were applied, Teviot and Liddesdale, with a population of 17,800, would receive £102,000.

“It cannot be right, considering the impact of deprivation and rural poverty on this area, that groups in Hawick and Newcastleton will get only half the amount going to Eildon,” said Mr McAteer.

Although his motion was supported by fellow Hawick councillors Stuart Marshall, David Paterson, George Turnbull and Neil Richards, it was defeated by 27 votes to seven.

The sixth Hawick member, Clair Ramage, abstained.

After the meeting, Mr Marshall told the Hawick News: “It’s very disappointing that our pleas to secure a fairer approach to distribute these much-needed funds fell on deaf ears.

“I personally think the needs of communities in Hawick and Newcastleton are much greater than they are in more affluent areas of the Borders, yet we are to receive the least share of the £500,000 available.”

The council also agreed on Tuesday that the first round of community bids should be considered by locality committees in October.

A decision on whether the scheme should be extended beyond a year will be made towards the end of the pilot period.