Friday, 5 October 2018

Hundreds opposed to merger - but beware!

by EWAN LAMB

Hundreds of Borderers have already signed an online petition which seeks to quash plans to merge the region's local government and health services into a single public authority.

Meanwhile it is reported a poll organised by Jedburgh Community Council has shown 84% of townspeople against the proposed amalgamation of Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders.

The recently launched petition on the Change.org website was launched by Robbie Pennington, from Kelso, who worked as a charge nurse and ward manager for NHS Borders. It had attracted 397 signatories by today (Friday).

Mr Pennington's petition, headed  Preserve the independence of NHS Borders warns against the plan dreamed up by SBC by stating:

"The culture and values of NHS Borders are very different from those of a local authority. It is those values that put patients first and that are vital to providing responsive, timely and appropriate care. These values would be destroyed by a merger with Scottish Borders Council. The proposed merger of SBC and NHS Borders could literally cost you your health."

A number of local people are already convinced the "madcap and stupid" idea will never take root. Some of the comments posted on the petition's web page ridicule the council, alleging for example "they couldn't run a bath".

But others warn against complacency and are urging many more opponents of the merger to get involved in the campaign to stop it. None of the local politicians appear to have made up their minds after the Tory group on the council unanimously backed the move.

The strength of support for the petition within the last few days has been remarkable compared to some similar protests in other parts of the country when amalgamation of authorities was on the cards.

A Conservative MP for a rural constituency in Somerset - he was raised in the Scottish Borders - has experienced local opposition to the merger of two councils on his patch and even backed the protesters. But the coupling of Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils is proceeding after receiving the go-ahead from his own Tory UK Government.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, who reprsents Bridgwater & West Somerset in the Commons, is the son of an aristocratic family from Berwickshire. He managed a 250-acre farm in the Scottish Borders from 1980 to 1985 before moving to pastures new.

The west country petition he backed was entitled 'Halt Taunton Deane District Council taking over West Somerset District Council.'

it argued the obliteration of West Somerset Council would reduce electoral  representation, centralise services in the more prosperous and more urbanised Taunton Deane and distance people in West Somerset from the delivery of services by making those delivering the services less accountable.

It added: "The proposed merger was based on a deficit accumulated by West Somerset. The deficit, that is forecast to drop dramatically, is not surprising given West Somerset's relative deprivation and the unfair distribution of the rural grant that pays a city like Bristol more per head in than the deeply rural and under populated West Somerset."

Mr Liddell-Grainger, usually forthright in his views, wrote in his blog: "If you agree that this [the merger] is an unnecessary step which will undermine local democracy then please sign the petition." But only 236 signatures were collected mainly due to local apathy, it was claimed.

Then in May 2018 the straight speaking MP outlined a scenario which even trumped the shortcomings of Scottish Borders local government.

This time he told his constituents: " Local government in Somerset is in a period of extraordinary upheaval. Taunton Deane and West Somerset may become one new council if the Government pass the necessary regulations in time. Somerset County Council could vanish altogether to be replaced by a giant Unitary authority which could easily absorb both Taunton and West Somerset. I have serious doubts about all these scenarios. Taunton Deane is badly strapped for cash. Somerset County Council is frankly flat broke.

"The County’s Chief Financial Officer, Kevin Nacey, has already resigned and will abandon the sinking ship shortly. He’s off to a new job. The sort of job for which life at Somerset County has made him uniquely qualified. Mr Nacey will soon be based not in Taunton but down in Devon, sunny Sidmouth. He is to serve his last few professional years as the new Finance Director of….wait for it…..The Donkey Sanctuary! You couldn’t make it up!!"

A clearly exasperated Mr Liddell-Grainger was at it again in August following confirmation of the council merger.

"I am delighted to learn that the new West Somerset and Taunton Council will be “Championing People, Place and Prosperity” – whatever on earth that means. I am equally thrilled to discover that employees of this “World Changing” council will soon be offering services “delivered by empowered and flourishing individuals….creating exceptional customer experiences….through brilliant performance and intuitive ways of working.”

Those passages outlining Somerset's brave new world of local government could have been lifted from many a Scottish Borders Council policy document.

According to Mr Liddell-Grainger: "Writing drivel of this kind is clearly a specialist occupation. Some highly placed bod in the Shadow Executive has spent tens of thousands of pounds of public money buying a load of verbal detritus. I wish no disrespect to those who are able to hold on to their jobs. Well over a quarter will cease to have employment when the merger takes place. Many have already applied for redundancy.

"Those who remain will be expected to work like slaves in order to provide barely adequate services. They are extremely unlikely to have the time to create “exceptional customer experiences”. Most customers will have to deal with their new council by clicking on a computer. As Winston might have put it: “Rarely in the field of Council conflab has so much bullshit been written about so few.”

Perhaps the Somerset experience provides lessons for the campaigners now determined to keep SBC away from hospital services, primary care and other health specialities. One thing is certain...there is no room for complacency.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Petition launched against Borders merger

by DOUGLAS SHEPHERD

The virtually 100 per cent hostile reaction to proposals which would see the formation of a single public authority for the Scottish Borders has been followed by the launch of a petition seeking to preserve the independence of NHS Borders.

As reported previously, Conservative and Independent members of Scottish Borders Council last week voted in favour of the merger of the region's local government and health services partly because of alleged financial difficulties.

But the vote provoked anger among the Borders public with many of them taking to social media to denounce and roundly criticise the idea. It was claimed SBC was incapable of doing its own job without trying to run hospitals, primary care and other sections of the NHS locally.

The recently launched petition can be found on the Change.org website. It has been set up by Robbie Pennington, from Kelso, who worked as a charge nurse and ward manager in NHS Borders.

The petition, headed  Preserve the independence of NHS Borders goes on to state:

"The culture and values of NHS Borders are very different from those of a local authority. It is those values that put patients first and that are vital to providing responsive, timely and appropriate care. These values would be destroyed by a merger with Scottish Borders Council. The proposed merger of SBC and NHS Borders could literally cost you your health."

According to a council source almost all of the 34 elected members were unaware the possible merger was under consideration until 24 hours before last week's meeting of SBC. The motion to take the idea forward was passed by 18 votes to 10 with SNP councillors and a small number of Independents voting against.

It has emerged since that many senior staff members at NHS Borders were also "in the dark" and had not heard of the controversial plans until they appeared in local newspapers and on radio. The board of NHS Borders has yet to say whether it will back the council's blueprint.

Supporters of the merger say it is the only way to preserve the identity of the Scottish Borders and keep it out of the clutches of Edinburgh. A successful campaign was waged more than 20 years ago after the then Scottish Office - controlled by Westminster - proposed a reorganisation of local government with a single council covering Fife, the Lothians, the Borders and the capital city.

The proposal was eventually ditched in the face of strong opposition, particularly from the Borders. Instead Scottish Borders Council was formed in 1996.

But the Scottish Borders is now part of the Edinburgh city deal, a joint initiative by the UK Government and Holyrood to kick start the regional economy. Critics of that deal maintain Edinburgh will get the lion's share of the financial investment while the Scottish Borders will have to content itself with crumbs.




Monday, 1 October 2018

Marking 10th anniversary of Icelandic banking debacle at SBC

EXCLUSIVE by DOUG COLLIE

Scottish Borders Council's disastrous involvement with the insolvent Icelandic banking sector in the lead up to the world financial crash is under scrutiny once more, ten years after the event.

A total of £10 million was "trapped" in the collapsed Landsbanki and Heritable banks in October 2008 at the end of an investment spree in which SBC made 94 short term deposits totalling £172 million of taxpayers' money in four separate Icelandic financial institutions between January 2006 and August 2008. The average deposited each time worked out at £1.829 million.

The Borders local authority was just one of dozens of UK councils and other public bodies who had their fingers burned in Iceland in 2008. It took two court actions and six years to conclude a fiasco which resulted in SBC auctioning off the £2.4 million debt which could not be recovered as a result of its recklessness for a reported £2.08 million - a net loss of £320,000.

SBC also found it necessary to borrow £1.021 million over five years from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) to cover its Icelandic deficits. It is unclear what other costs were incurred, including any contribution made towards the fees of lawyers who acted jointly for the UK councils in the Icelandic courts, and staff time and effort in a bid to recover the lost millions.

Now an investigative journalist has lodged a series of searching questions with SBC in a Freedom of Information request seeking detailed facts and figures about the catastrophic Icelandic misadventure.

Joel Benjamin's request reads as follows:

Please provide the following information in relation to Icelandic bank investments. Provide an MS Excel spreadsheet with the following information in separate columns: (1) Icelandic Bank deposits 2004 - 2008 broken down by a) date of investment, b) amount of investment, c) term of investment, d) rate of interest/ or total interest received, e) institution. 

(2) The institution(s) that advised the council on its Icelandic investment strategy; (3) The ledger/ payment codes which detail the transfer of the funds from council's various account(s), to the Icelandic banks, (often via a money broker such as ICAP).

(4) Confirm/ deny whether any of the money invested in Iceland was obtained via LOBO loan borrowing: (5) Confirm/ deny whether any of the money invested in Iceland was obtained via PWLB borrowing.

Not Just Sheep & Rugby can tell Mr Benjamin how FOI responses in 2011 revealed that the sums involved in SBC's Icelandic deposits ranged from £1 million to £4 million. In addition to Landsbanki and Heritable the council also did business with Singer and Glitnir banks.

All went well until October 2008 when the entire Icelandic banking system went into meltdown. Ultimately a number of top bank officials went to jail for their part in the scandal. But not a single UK councillor or local authority official has been held to account for losses estimated at £1 billion pounds.

Senior finance officers at SBC lodged £3 million with Landsbanki in May 2008 and a further £2 million in July of that year even though credit agency Moody's had downgraded Landsbanki's credit worthiness in the previous February. The £5 million in SBC's Landsbanki account was due to be withdrawn with interest in November 2008 and January 2009.

The other £5 million marooned after the banks imploded was made up of separate deposits of £1 million and £4 million with Heritable in July and August 2008 respectively. These sums were due to be redeemed in January 2009 and December 2008.

Treasury Management documents obtained via a different FOI request contained names of financial institutions where money could be "suitably deposited". There was no mention of the four Icelandic banks which meant that elected Borders councillors were unaware of the whereabouts of £172 million of SBC's assets over a two year period. Huge sums of money could be gambled with under delegated powers given to officials.

Yet another FOI was lodged asking for information about other bank deposits [non-Icelandic] made by the council at that time. The response can only be described as 'staggering'.

The council produced details of 807 separate “deals” – some involving millions of pounds being deposited and withdrawn in the space of 24 hours – with a total monetary value of £1,880,280,000 (one billion, eight hundred and eighty million, two hundred and eighty thousand pounds). 

Despite the magnitude of the monetary wheeling and dealing Audit Scotland, the country's spending watchdog, refused to intervene and rejected repeated calls for an investigation.

They responded to one request for an inquiry by stating: "We have decided that the additional information does not suggest any scope for further investigation of the investment in Icelandic banks. We do not consider that the scale of investment is unusual.  All councils have large cash balances from time to time because of the timing of cash flows and from borrowings for capital programmes,  

"In these circumstances councils routinely invest any surplus cash to gain additional revenue by way of interest rather than leave the money in current accounts for no benefit.  The amount of money placed on deposit is a matter for the council officers to decide in terms of each council’s treasury management policy.  Thus the amount of money invested and the length of the investment will vary between councils and between years.

"Although councils are not required to publish details of all the investments they make, the balance of funds held on short term deposit at 31st March each year is disclosed in the annual accounts. There is no evidence to suggest that any of the investments made by Scottish Borders Council were not properly approved.  The council has clear treasury management policies which are reviewed annually and approved by council members.   External audit work includes regular consideration of council investments. Where and when councils choose to invest funds are decisions for them to make.

"The auditor’s role is to check whether councils follow the appropriate professional guidance and procedures. We also flag up any problems we identify in their systems for financial management.  The external auditor made enquiries about the investment in Icelandic banks and was satisfied that the investments had been made in accordance with the treasury management policies operating at the time and were approved in line with the council’s scheme of delegated authority."

Under FOI regulations the council has 20 working days to respond to Mr Benjamin's request which was submitted on September 27th.


Saturday, 29 September 2018

Our MSPs are making allowances!

EWAN LAMB takes a lighthearted look at the latest expenses payments to our political representatives

As any competent Returning Officer might not say: "All of the claims are in: all of the receipts have been counted."

It means Not Just Sheep & Rugby can reveal that so far as the Scottish Borders constituencies are concerned the SNP suffered a fearful hammering at the hands of the Tories during 2017/18 on the allowance claims front.

The final tally was Rachael Hamilton MSP (Conservative, Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire) 307 claims worth £31,186; Christine Grahame MSP (SNP, Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale) 148 claims worth £19,281. Tory majority £11,905.

However, SNP supporters will point to the fact that the veteran Ms Grahame has narrowed the gap after being trounced by an even bigger margin in 2016/17. The figures for that financial year make dismal reading for the Nationalists, but we repeat them nevertheless:

John Lamont MSP (Conservative, Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire) 436 claims worth £34,209; Christine Grahame MSP (SNP, Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale) 176 claims worth £19,241. Tory majority £14,968.

There appear to have been no spoiled invoices in either financial year.

So the figures show that while Ms Grahame picked up an extra £40 worth of claims between the two financial years, the value of the Tory claim count fell by an alarming £3,023. Political analysts are unsure whether the change of MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire had a marked impact on this year's outcome.

A breakdown of the statistics on the Scottish Parliament website shows the bulk of Mrs Hamilton's returns came from the cost of Edinburgh accommodation (£12,604), office costs (£10,377), travel (£2,611) and surgery advertising (£1,605).

The list of office cost items included claims for black bags 89 pence, wipes £1.07, toilet brush and holder £1.31, a purple coat stand £53.93, a kettle £31 and office carpets £1,398.

Mrs Hamilton also submitted an allowance claim for an overnight stay in London - £182 for bed & breakfast at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster on November 27th 2017.

Ms Grahame, who lives in Edinburgh, did not claim for accommodation in the city or for any overnight stays. The various headings show travel £1,066 (including 23 journeys on the Borders Railway), office costs £14,984, surgery advertising £1,725 and telecommunications £1,372. Her expenses for business meetings amounted to £40 for catering at a single event at the Tontine Hotel, Peebles.

Holyrood newcomer from the Borders Michelle Ballantyne (Conservative, South of Scotland) handed in 106 claims worth £10,573 although the total and value were undoubtedly affected by her "late arrival" in Parliament.

Mrs Ballantyne only became a list MSP in May 2017, replacing Mrs Hamilton after her constituency victory allowed her to take over from Mr Lamont (now a Westminster MP for virtually the same area). Following his "elevation" to the House of Commons in June 2017 Mr Lamont submitted 466 separate expense claims totalling £58,148 in the 10 months to the end of the financial year in March 2018.

But Mrs Ballantyne also continued to serve as Tory group leader on Scottish Borders Council until she resigned on December 5th 2017. Her council allowances meant she collected £12,033 from SBC between April and December of last year.

Her MSP expenses included Edinburgh accommodation £6,013, office costs £1,075, travel £2,052, surgery advertising £1,263 and a wall clock £8.83.

A couple of out of area claims raised a smile in the office. Jackson Carlaw claimed for 157 separate taxi journeys while Miles Briggs recovered £2.40 for jugs of water consumed at a "business meeting".

The salary for each MSP is currently set at £62,149 while their allowance for staffing costs is capped at £87,300.The salary for a Commons MP is £77,379.


Friday, 28 September 2018

"South of Scotland can only afford one council" - claim

DOUGLAS SHEPHERD writes

The proposal for a merger between Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders has been greeted with virtually 100% opposition from local residents who would be affected by the formation of a single public authority for the area.

Not Just Sheep & Rugby wondered if there would be a more favourable reaction to an alternative idea for a single local authority covering the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, leaving the respective health services to work out their own future arrangements.

Below we publish in full a submission to the Scottish Government which sets out the case for a South of Scotland local government commission aimed at saving money while at the same time giving the neglected area a much stronger voice. We make no comment as to its merits or disadvantages.

A SINGLE LOCAL AUTHORITY FOR THE SOUTH OF SCOTLAND
It has been reported that a group of individuals (presumably councillors and officials) at Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is floating an idea for a single public authority for the Borders by amalgamating the council and Borders Health Board (BHB).
The published papers which may form the basis for a submission to the Scottish Government as part of the Local Governance consultation are 100% positive about a merger without any mention of pitfalls or drawbacks, and there is no detail about how savings might be achieved.
A combination of health and local government services would be fraught with difficulties. For example, it would surely be dangerous if councillors with particular political views found themselves in charge of hospitals, primary care and other services currently delivered by an apolitical health board.
The last thing the Borders requires is a politically run authority with control over £120 million of health expenditure as well as the £254 million municipal revenue budget it already administers in line with party political policies and priorities.
The weaknesses in the local economy such as low wages and low economic activity as outlined in the SBC document proves conclusively that the Scottish Borders is too small to justify having its own local authority with 34 councillors and 125 members of staff on salaries in excess of £50,000 a year and paid for by local taxpayers. The inflated levels of remuneration paid to senior officers, ranging from £74,000 to £134,000, are completely out of step with the state of the regional economy.
The area needs a much more radical solution than a simple coming together of the two largest Borders employers into one huge new organisation with potentially conflicting interests. Such a merger sounds like an exercise in self-preservation.
Surely it is time the Scottish Government and others recognised that a one-size-fits-all system of local government might not be suitable for every area of the country. Perhaps a bold change is needed by scrapping the moribund system of governance in southern Scotland and replacing it with a more dynamic model.
The establishment of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SOSEA) covering the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway offers a unique chance to build on the efforts and achievements of the South of Scotland Alliance. That fairly loose relationship forged by representatives from the two local government areas has already produced a South of Scotland Rural Regional Programme incorporating the Borders Railway/Central Borders Business Park, Mountain Biking – “Refreshing a world class product”, a Strategic Master plan for the M74 Corridor, and ambitious plans for the Stranraer Waterfront. But for too long the south has been neglected while the Highlands has received a disproportionate share of attention and investment.
There is an opportunity to build on the alliance by creating a single council/commission for the south of Scotland. It would give the entire region a much louder voice in the clamour for revenue and capital resources from the Scottish Government. And the partnership with the new SOSEA would provide a strong platform to develop the ailing economy and attract major inward investment.
The reformed local government unit would still be dwarfed by Highland Council in terms of land mass – some 11,000 square kilometres compared to Highland’s 30,600 square kilometres. So an amalgamated local authority for the south could not be ruled out on logistical grounds.
It would serve a population of 262,000 people (SBC 114,000 and Dumfries & Galloway 148,000). It would have a combined annual revenue budget of £564 million (Borders £254 million: Dumfries & Galloway £310 million) and an annual capital budget of £109 million (Borders £36 million [limited by a vast underspend in 2017/18]: Dumfries & Galloway £73 million).
In recent years reduced funding from the Scottish Government whose own budget has been downsized by the UK Government has resulted in local authorities claiming they have had no alternative but to cut front line services. Many of these public services will never be restored even if the levels of financial support were to recover.

But the jobs at the top of the local government pyramid along with the number of elected members representing council wards has escaped scrutiny and the cold winds of austerity. As mentioned earlier SBC has 125 individuals on the payroll who are paid £50,000 or more. The total in Dumfries and Galloway is 219. The nine most senior officers in D&G between them account for £901,000. An amalgamated council would surely require far less of these high earners providing one area for economies. After all many millions of pounds have been spent in both areas on exit packages for dozens of well-paid officials, and the two councils continue to function without them.
Now it is time to turn to the number of councillors and the costs involved in keeping them in post. So far as SBC is concerned there are 34 elected members representing 11 wards whose salaries and expenses totalled £748,000 in 2017/18. A group of so-called 15 senior councillors with added responsibilities (e.g. portfolio holder) received £286,319 while the council leader was paid £33,857.
In Dumfries & Galloway the council currently has 43 councillors representing 12 wards at a total cost in 2017/18 of £890,000. Fourteen senior councillors were paid between them £282,000 with the council leader receiving a salary of £25,388, a notably smaller amount than that paid to the leader of SBC even though D&G has a larger territory and significantly more residents.
It can be argued that both local authorities are over-governed with a total of 77 elected members between them. Highland Council functions with 74 councillors. In the current financial climate it is impossible to justify having three or even four councillors representing a single ward. So here is one radical proposal, again aimed at saving money.
There should be a total of 30 full time councillors or commissioners - each paid £30,000 – to run the new authority…12 for the current SBC area and 18 for Dumfries & Galloway based on the respective populations. They would not be allowed to hold other jobs thereby encouraging more young people and the man and woman in the street to get involved in local democracy. The annual cost of these administrators would be £900,000 – around £700,000 less than the current combined army of councillors. Even when expenses and responsibility payments are added the bill will be less than the current one. No doubt the usual suspects will say such a slimmed down system would be unworkable.
 It can be left to the experts in local government affairs to identify and calculate other areas where cost savings could be achieved by amalgamating the two councils.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

"We will be transported to hospital in a council lorry."

by DOUG COLLIE

The planned merger between Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders which would allow a single public authority to run local government and health services has been roundly condemned by local residents within hours of the idea being voted through by councillors.

Our trawl of social media sites across the region failed to find one contributor in favour of the idea which has been criticised as a power grab by the cash-strapped local authority.

If public feelings are anything to go by the proposal will receive little support in communities whose citizens are the clients of health care and the dwindling range of services on offer from SBC. Yet it is claimed the concept would aim to increase community involvement.

But there also seems to be a feeling that widespread opposition against the amalgamation will simply be ignored and swept aside. A number of the social media posters have panned councillors for failing to consult them before sanctioning the plan at a meeting of SBC yesterday (Tuesday).

One comment on the Border Telegraph newspaper's Facebook page read: "We will be transported to hospital in a council lorry".

Here we reproduce just some of the views expressed so far on the Telegraph and Southern Reporter Facebook sites:


Lindsey McPhillips - This makes no sense ! Two authorities, both struggling with funding, both hopelessly incompetent, neither fit for purpose want to merge ? Surely this can only double the problems? Andy Fox - One authority will be stripped bare and it won’t be the council.

Ian Simpson - Power grab but bizarre , it was always speculated that NHS Borders would merge , but with Lothian. But where is the logic in joining up with a Local Authority ...has the Scottish Government been asleep at the wheel? Janie Clark - The public are always encouraged to provide input, as long as they understand it's ultimately futile and will be completely disregarded.

Marc Dawson - There’s a recipe for disaster. SBC couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery and Borders NHS is floundering like a drunk in a gale. I just can’t decide if it’s funny or tragic. Glen Donnelly - NHS will go downhill even more. It’s bad enough to get appointments at doctors and council not much better either.

Robert Potts - That's NHS Borders in big trouble if that lot take over, more bums on seats,new offices,less boots on the ground,end of public service. Drew Glendinning - Well you can bet your last pound that certain families will get preferential treatment that’s for sure.

Tony Brown - Not a good idea. Sorry. It won’t work. Gibby Findlater - That’s health board knackered now then Cathy Green - Imagine training as a doctor or nurse or any hospital health professional to end up working for the local council!

Marion Black - Dreadful idea. Will end up with more so called managers and pen pushers and not what is really needed ie more staff on the wards for patient care. James Murphy - SBC can’t even control and maintain a basic grass cutting schedule yet we are going to let them run the health service? There should be a page dedicated against this proposal. I’m not sure the limit of likes a page is allowed but I’d expect it would be very close to exceeding it that’s for sure!! Complete disaster waiting to happen!!!!! Billy Reid - It’s a disaster waiting to happen. SBC can’t even look after their own affairs.

Stevie Campbell - This is lunacy. If this goes through it will be one of the biggest mistakes for generations to come. SBC should have no financial ties to an NHS body. Allan Leishman -There will be a lot of employees panicking big time. After all if they merge they won't need 2 HR depts, 2 finance dept's, 2 IT dept's etc. Although knowing how NHS Borders is run they'll probably hire more managers when/if they merge. Or get rid of the good managers and keep the useless ones. God help us all.


David Maxwell - This is nothing but a joke and disaster waiting to happen. Carol Gibson - Bad move. Michael Brownlee - Tory nonsense again. What will be next? Jeanette Porterfield - God help us. Neil Scott - That’s what happens when idiots vote Tory. Ryan Mathew Whellans - Disgrace there should be a public consultation.

Lynda Parks - Bloody ridiculous! It's all right for them in their ivory towers drawing up these plans, but they have no idea how it will affect the public. What may look good on paper, doesn't always follow through in practice. What about consulting us?!!

Brian Gibbins - There is some big long corridores at BGH to hang there tapestry in now if they merge  Janis Slorance - That's your Tories for you, insanity rules .Alex Chalmers - Another decision made behind closed doors. Margaret Niven - Will this give them an excuse to pry into medical history to find out more about people before they make more absurd decisions..

Ged Hogg - This should be a decision made by the public. Having seen the mess that SBC are currently in the mind boggles as to how this act of lunacy is going to end up. SBC have shown that they are not fit for purpose, the state of our region's infrastructure bears testament to that fact. I honestly fear for the future of NHS Borders and the associated services and finances if they climb in to bed with SBC.

Irene Hutchison - Blooming hell.This a disaster waiting to happen.Why can't they listen to electorate who voted these people in.It's all right for them they will probably have private health care. Brian Crawford - Shocking. Borders council can’t sort themselves out now want to try NHS. It’s a bloody joke me thinks. 

Steven Oliver -What else do you expect from a Tory council?  Alasdair Mackay - How long will it take our amazing council to shut down all the local health centres? While claiming that centralising all services at Melrose will benefit everyone! Brian Edgar - The idiots trying to take over the asylum.  Martin Fairbairn - Next is the sell off of the NHS to the Americans. Tories sell everything. They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.



Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Another rubbish report for Scottish Borders Council

EWAN LAMB   reports on waste disposal figures heading in the wrong direction

In a year when Scottish landfill tonnages for household rubbish continued on a downward trend the council responsible for waste treatment and disposal in the Scottish Borders landfilled more garbage in 2017 than it did six years earlier.

Meanwhile the quantities of refuse recycled in the Borders during last year at 21,324 tonnes was way below the tonnage achieved in 2011 - 24,897 tonnes. And the local landfill percentage of 57.2% was the third highest in all of Scotland, topped only by Glasgow City and Western Isles. The national average was 45% showing that a robust and efficient waste treatment strategy is urgently needed at SBC if its dismal record is to be improved upon.

Annual statistics from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) also show the Carbon input tonnage for the Borders bucked the national trend last year.The national Co2 equivalent showed a decrease of 115,938 tonnes (1.9%) from 2016. But the 2017 figure for the Borders at 134,667 tonnes was 2.1% up on 2016.

We examined landfill tonnages for SBC's neighbours, comparing SEPA's 2011 figures with those of last year. Borders was the only council to record an upswing in the amount landfilled household refuse between 2011 and 2017.

The statistics for East Lothian were 27,644 tonnes in 2011 and 23,499 in 2017.while the equivalent numbers for Midlothian were 23,163 and 18,857, and for Dumfries & Galloway 34,886 and 31,725. Only SBC showed an increase from 28,688 to 30,593.

When it came to recycling, East Lothian increased its tonnage from 23,432 in 2011 to 26,885 in 2017. Midlothian's data showed a rise from 20,687 to 22,049 while Dumfries and Galloway recycled 17,441 tonnes in 2011 and 21,245 tonnes last year. By contrast SBC's 2011 tonnage of 24,897 had fallen to 21,324 in the same period.

The Co2 equivalent for the Borders of 134,667 tonnes in 2017 was the highest figure recorded since 2011.

As this publication has pointed out on many occasions the Borders' depressing performance on waste disposal - recycling now stands at 39.8%, far below Scottish averages and Scottish Government targets - can be blamed on the failure of councillors and senior council staff to deliver a conventional treatment facility which would have been capable of diverting 80% of the region's refuse from landfill.

Now, instead of leading the field in Scottish waste treatment, SBC is way down the field after its disastrous liaison with the now insolvent New Earth Solutions Group and its funding "partner" which revelled in the name Premier Group Isle of Man New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] Fund, also bankrupt and owing investors hundreds of millions of pounds.

The council was just one of the "victims" of the Isle of Man-based unregulated fund. It failed to come up with the £23 million needed to construct a waste treatment plant at Galashiels.

Many of the individual investors whose money disappeared into a black hole blame the Manx Financial Services Authority (FSA) for allegedly ignoring their warnings and complaints.

And an event to be held on the island this weekend by the FSA has been met with criticism and derision by Premier Group shareholders.

The Authority is staging a Family Finance Day on Saturday September 29th which will include a presentation by 'Scam Man' on how to be scam aware.

A spokesman for some of the Premier Group's 'victims' commented: "This duplicitous event conveniently ignores the fact that the FSA were well “aware” of the existence of the New Earth Solutions Recycling & Renewables Fund and other Premier Group Isle of Man “scams” (in which family investors lost everything). But despite this “awareness” did absolutely nothing to prevent or stop the “scams”. The FSA is a bogus organisation ostensibly tasked with preventing “scams” but in fact attracting even more “scamsters” to boost the island’s disreputable financial services economy."

Perhaps SBC should send a delegation to the Isle of Man this weekend for advice on how to avoid scammers who use local authorities for their own ends!