In spite of significantly increased costs, particularly due to average inflation of 10 per cent, budget plans published today include a commitment to deliver all capital projects previously announced and protect frontline Scottish Borders Council services.

The draft revenue and capital budget proposals have been developed following collaborative work over a number of months by a cross-party group of Councillors. The 866 responses received through the annual budget survey and feedback from Community Conversations this summer have also shaped the plans.

Draft budget highlights:
· Following feedback from residents the budget proposals protect frontline services, including education, social work and roads, the latter with investment of £21.9m over the next three years

· Teacher numbers protected, and Early Learning and Childcare partners supported with additional funding to pay staff the Real Living Wage

· Commitment to capital plan projects, including three new secondary schools (Peebles, Galashiels and Hawick), two new primary schools (Earlston and Eyemouth) and two care villages (Tweedbank and Hawick) – a total of just over £205m for these projects alone

· Ongoing investment in existing schools, further flood protection works and flood studies, and targeted town centre regeneration works

· Continued investment into the environment and to programmes aimed at helping the Council achieve its Net Zero target

· Protection of funding for third sector and voluntary partners across the region

· Funding for an extension of the Demand Responsive Travel pilot scheme while a regional transport review is carried out (£304k), and funding to sustain the 101/102 bus service in Tweeddale

· Commitment to a feasibility study into fixed CCTV provision in town centres (£80k)

· One-off increase of £178k in the Community Enhancement (Small Schemes) Fund to support priority local issues not funded through other budgets. This brings the total budget for this Fund to £378k for 2023/24

· Financial assistance for Live Borders, including postponing previously planned savings, in recognition of current financial challenges such as increased energy costs

· Continued investment into improved outdoor community spaces and play parks (£2.2m over the next three years)

· Additional one-off funding of £100k to enhance existing respite care

· One-off funding of £20k to enhance neurodiversity education and awareness in schools

· Commitment to working with key partners on refreshed sport, library and culture strategies for the region

· Investment into making back office processes more efficient

· Commitment to paying all staff the Real Living Wage, including Modern Apprentices

· Council Tax levels remaining one of the lowest in mainland Scotland

The draft financial plan will be considered at a meeting of full council on Thursday 23 February.