Councillors have agreed a wide ranging set of recommendations with the aim of providing excellent sport, leisure and cultural services through a financially sustainable and high performing partnership between Live Borders and Scottish Borders Council.

The recommendations follow the completion of a joint review, supported by independent consultants, which gathered the feedback of more than 6,500 local people.

The focus of the joint review was on the quality, quantity, accessibility, affordability and ongoing sustainability of services and facilities. The review was driven by a number of key factors, including decreasing public funding, changing needs and aspirations of communities, inflation and increasing energy costs.

Alison Moore, Chair of Live Borders, said: “The agreement of Council today is the culmination of many months’ worth of work through the joint review and ongoing constructive discussions between our two organisations. It also marks the starting point of a joint transformational change programme which will help us move forward, together, with a clear vision and focus on delivering the best possible services for our residents and visitors to the Scottish Borders. Through the joint review process the relationship between Live Borders and the Council has already become stronger, at both Board and officer level, and with continued co-operation, mutual support and effective joint working I believe everyone will benefit, especially our communities.”

The recommendations agreed include the development of a Sport Facilities and Health and Wellbeing Strategy and a Cultural and Arts Strategy, with accompanying action plans. Both will be informed by new sport and cultural forums, key stakeholders and communities.

It has also been agreed to progress detailed options appraisals and undertake associated consultation on the future of the Council-owned buildings operated and managed by Live Borders which meet various criteria, including high repair/maintenance costs, decreasing user numbers, increased running costs and where there is the potential to relocate or co-locate services.

Councillor Euan Jardine, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “Working together, the Council and Live Borders are committed to delivering the highest possible quality sport, leisure and cultural services for the Scottish Borders.

“Live Borders is the Council’s arms-length culture and sport trust and is a highly valued and integral partner in the effective delivery of many of our strategic objectives as a Council. I firmly believe that the comprehensive set of recommendations agreed today, which are built upon the independent joint review and the feedback of over 6,500 people, set us on a positive course, although there is much work ahead. Up and down the country, those that provide sport, leisure and cultural services are feeling the pinch, and we are no different here in the Borders. We must tackle some difficult issues, including the ageing property estate, and there will be significant discussions and engagement with service users, communities and other key stakeholders as the Council and Live Borders progress through the recommendations agreed today.”

The Council and Live Borders, in partnership, are responsible for delivering a broad range of valued culture, sport and leisure and community services across the area.

This includes Active Communities, Arts and Creativity, Health Development, Sport Development and Events, Active Schools, Library Services, Museums, Galleries and Archives. Live Borders further brings a range of cultural and creative events to the Borders including theatre, live music and comedy, cinema and an extensive variety of workshops and exhibitions.

These are provided from a total of 30 sport and leisure facilities, including six swimming pools; and 23 cultural facilities, including libraries and museums, in addition to providing 10 community centres and 12 town halls. A number of digital services are also provided, particularly associated with library services, such as BorrowBox and Pressreader.

The review comes at a time of unprecedented financial pressures on all services in the region as well as across the entire leisure sector, a changing picture of service usage post pandemic, high inflation, vastly increased energy costs and the need to work towards Net Zero targets.

A property estate which is becoming increasingly costly to maintain is also affecting service delivery and finances. Many of the Council-owned facilities are requiring significant investment or replacement if they are to continue to operate.