SBC agrees £50k spending on consultants to help decide future of Live Borders

Friday May 31st 2024

Scottish-Borders-Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

On Thursday 30th May, Scottish Borders Council agreed on spending £50,000 to bring in outside consultants to help decide the currently uncertain future of the charitable trust that operates leisure, sport and cultural services on its behalf.

A review has been launched on the fate of Live Borders, the body overseeing swimming pools, leisure centres, libraries and museums.

There are four options on the table – one of which is to return the operation of all the services back under the control of SBC.

The review was undertaken after Live Borders experienced unprecedented challenges over the past five years, including the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent slow recovery, massively increased utility costs and changes in customer usage trends.

Now one of four options will be selected at a meeting of the full council on D-Day – Thursday, June 27, when full council members will reconvene to make a final decision.

To enable the council to make an informed decision on that date members of the full council agreed spending of £50k to access outside expertise to give advise around legal and tax issues that need to be considered and to produce a “robust options appraisal report”.

The four options are:

– Continuation of the current trust model
– Alternative trust models
– The return of some services to the council’s control
– The return of all services to the council’s control

Councillor Euan Jardine, the leader of SBC, said: “One thing I want to make clear is that we should never make decisions on perception, it should always be facts and that is why we need to be patient until the next council meeting when the facts will be in front of us.

“We need to remembers there are staff at Live Borders who are feeling anxious about this, who don’t know what’s happening and I think we need to be courteous to them and courteous to each other, take the emotion out of this, take perception out of this and let’s keep it factual.”

Councillor Julie Pirone agreed, adding: “We all in this chamber have our views on Live Borders and what should happen to it, but as the leader said we need to base it on fact.

“People want to know what is going to happen to their pools, their buildings, their museums and their libraries, so we need help to do that to clarify issues in our minds, to make sure we have the right information in front of us.”

SBC has supported Live Borders financially throughout, including continuing to pay the full management fee when services were closed through the pandemic and staff were furloughed.

Subsequently the council has provided an additional £2.5m of funding over and above the management fee and also removed planned savings from budget plans.

Various capital investments to improve facilities or address immediate issues have also been provided by the council.

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