FORMER senior police officers couldn't convince the council's ruling administration to invest in new CCTV systems for Borders town centres.

On Thursday members of the local authority voted 15 to 14 in favour of running down the clock on the current crumbling system.

And eventually doing away with the cameras all together.

But a furious row erupted ahead of the vote over claims by leader Shona Haslam that the local authority wasn't responsible for policing the Borders - despite already coughing up around £570,000 to fund two Community Action Teams.

As well as Watson McAteer, who represents Hawick, Galashiels councillor Harry Scott was a senior police officer.

Both appealed to the debating chamber over the need for cameras in eight town centres across the region.

Councillor Scott, who is the vice chair of the local authority's Police, Fire, and Safer Communities Board, told us: "During the debate the leader of the council Shona Haslam stated that the council was not responsible for the prevention and detection of crime.

"That, she said, lay with the police.

"The health, safety, and wellbeing of the population it serves are the prime responsibilities of any local authority, and that includes the prevention and detection of crime.

"If the prevention and detection of crime was not the responsibility of the council, why was her ruling Administration spending over half a million pounds of council tax on maintaining two Police Community Action Teams, and a Community Safety department?

"Public space CCTV has played a major part in the reduction and prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour, and also been used extensively in the search for vulnerable missing persons, and the detection of serious and organised crime."

Around one-in-four of the current cameras in the Borders don't work and many more are expected to fail in the coming months and years.

Members of the council were told that it would cost around £680,000 to provide upgraded replacement systems for the eight towns currently covered - Duns, Eyemouth, Galashiels, Hawick, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk.

Despite a recent consultation, which attracted 436 responses, providing the majority of responses in favour of having cameras, members of the council were advised not to fund a replacement system.

Tweeddale councillor Stuart Bell did table an amendment calling for a phased replacement system to be undertaken over the next four years.

But his option was outvoted.

Councillor Bell said: "I am astonished that the Conservative-led administration of Scottish Borders Council will not listen to the Borders public who, when surveyed, overwhelmingly replied that they think that CCTV makes them feel safe.

"I know the council administration are obsessed with saving money regardless of the impact on services, so I crafted our proposal in a way that minimised expenditure by phasing the replacement over four years. That would then only add a tiny extra cost of about £150 thousand per annum to a capital budget which sits at over £60 million for next year – still they opposed it.

“There was a persistent complaint in the debate that there was no direct evidence, or commentary, from the Police on the effectiveness of CCTV – so it was suggested that CCTV doesn’t help solve crimes.

"The possibility that the Police would not make any public commentary on how they solve crimes – and hence no direct response from them on this issue - seems to have passed the council administration by.

“It was noticeable, and remarkable, that the chair of that committee and executive member for Community Safety, Councillor George Turnbull, broke ranks with the rest of the Tories and voted against his group and for our amendment.

“We tried to protect this service, but lost the debate by one vote. I fear that Borderers as they go round our beautiful towns have lost much more.”

Following the exchanges at Newtown St Boswells Shona Haslam issued a statement.

It said: " “It is important to be really clear, I am completely in favour of CCTV in our communities.

"It does have an important role to play in the prevention and detection of crime.

"But the council is not responsible for the prevention and detection of crime. That is the responsibility of the police.

"If the council were to spend almost £1million on CCTV, that is £1million that we would not have available to spend on roads, education and social care and would impact our most vulnerable families."