Council cuts could force Teries to clean local loos

Scottish Borders Council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells.
Scottish Borders Council headquarters at Newtown St Boswells.

HAWICK groups may have to volunteer to maintain public toilets and sports pitches, if Scottish Borders Council goes ahead with cuts to neighbourhood services.

The warning has been issued after councillors agreed to review and consult communities on various services, which also include grass cutting, burial grounds, and street cleansing, in a bid to save £450,000 by 2016.

A report before councillors stated: “The clear intention is to commence the service changes on a consultative and voluntary basis. However, should the full extent of savings be unable to be realised through this route, then an alternative will need to be agreed.”

Councillor David Paterson, executive member for environmental services, said: “Any decisions made will be following consultation, so it is important the view of the local community is heard by local councillors and SBC during the review. We realise the services being discussed are well-liked but neighbourhood area managers will go through a three-stage process involving councillors in each step. We want to ensure the Borders remains attractive to its residents and visitors, while making sure the council’s services are fit for purpose in the long term.”

The review will consider the costs associated with the maintenance of open spaces through an assessment that includes categories, such as cultural value, carbon input and economic output. The consultation will also look at identifying sports pitches and users, to examine whether sporting groups can take on responsibility for pitch maintenance. In addition, a review of allotment charges, and whether the maintenance and management of allotments can be managed by community groups, will also be explored.

While SBC has a legal responsibility to provide, maintain and administer cemeteries and burial grounds, which make up 15 per cent of the total area of land maintained by Neighbourhood Operations, the review will aim to segregate its burial grounds into three categories to identify opportunities.

The council will also consider how to manage its 43 public conveniences. Possibilities include creating a regional scheme that promotes toilet facilities in third party locations, as well as other bodies taking on the responsibility for a facility. The council will also look to update its litter bin strategy, considering new technology, bin locations and the route used to empty bins. Rob Dickson, director of environment and infrastructure, said: “The growth in the resilient communities project has given us confidence that a number of communities have the capabilities and wish to take on responsibility for improving their environment.”