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Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders close to merger

Scottish Borders Council has taken a first step towards becoming the first local authority in Scotland to merge with its local NHS board.

It agreed to alert the Scottish government's local governance review that it is open to the idea.

It would create a combined organisation with 9,000 staff and a budget of more than £400m of public money.

A council report described the proposals as an "unprecedented opportunity".

'Facing challenges'

Council leader Shona Haslam asked her fellow councillors to "start thinking radically" and support the submission to the Scottish government.

"Our local services are facing challenges which have never before been seen," she said.

"Rising costs and decreasing funding mean we have to think of new ways to protect our public services and make sure they are fit for the future.

"The Borders is facing a particular issue with our ageing population, which is putting a strain on our health and social care services.

"We need to start thinking radically about how we're going to meet those challenges."

'Real issue'

Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson, also deputy leader of the opposition, claimed the proposals had not been subject to scrutiny.

She said: "The real issue here is that we have opted for one solution to solve every sort of scenario without there being any real discussion or debate within this council.

"Rather than considering or imagining a range of different approaches, the paper comes up with one predetermined solution - a single public authority.

"There is no analysis of any alternative options.

"We are told that whatever the problem is - be it obesity, outward migration, low wages or lack of infrastructure - a single public authority will sort it."

'Better outcomes'

She put forward a motion calling on the council to highlight to the Scottish government that other options would be explored, but that was defeated by 18 votes to 11.

A second motion seeking further time to redraft the submission was also turned down.

Speaking after the debate, council chief executive Tracey Logan said: "Now we formally submit the proposal to Scottish government as a response to the local governance consultation.

"We hope this is the very first step on a journey towards an end which we really don't know.

"We're hoping for closer working and more collaboration between partner agencies towards better outcomes."

Source: BBC News, 25/09/18, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-45640494

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