COUNCIL leader Shona Haslam says her number one priority over the coming weeks will be to bring services back to normality.

Ahead of her return to the hot seat, the Conservative member for Tweeddale East also said “education and getting the kids back to school safely” will be an immediate goal.

And she is concerned job losses recently announced in the region are “just the beginning”.

In March, councillors voted to hand decision-making responsibilities to the council’s chief executive, Tracey Logan.

But councillor Haslam is due to regain control tomorrow (Thursday).

Councillor Haslam, who lives in Peebles, said: “During COVID, like many councils across Scotland, we delegated powers to the chief executive.

“This was necessary to allow officers to make the very swift decisions that they were required to take as well as dealing with the fact that we could not meet as a council.

“The decisions taken during this time were mainly all COVID response-related and councillors were consulted every step of the way.

“However, with things starting to return to this ‘new normal’ we felt it was time to bring decision making powers back to the full council.

“We have also now put in place all of the requirements to allow the council to meet virtually and for the public to view our meetings which means we can do a lot more online now.”

When asked about her administration’s immediate priorities, councillor Haslam said: “While our working practices are starting to develop in this new situation we find ourselves in the COVID recovery and response continues for the council.

“Over the summer we are still providing free school meals to many children, supporting those who are shielding, and trying to bring services back within the new government guidelines of social distancing.

“This will take time and I want to thank everyone for their understanding in this. We have not been able to do many of the things that the council normally does like, we have not been allowed to cut grass with normal mowers, for just one example.

“Opening our recycling centres has required additional staff, collecting bins has required additional vehicles and staff, all of these things have had a massive impact.

“So our number one priority over the coming weeks is to bring council services as back to normal as possible.

“Education and getting the kids back to school safely on August 11 is our immediate priority. The government does not announce the guidance on this until July 30 so we are working to very tight timescales.”

When asked about her hopes for the Borders in the coming year, councillor Haslam said: “A sense of normality would be nice, but that seems far away at the moment.

“We have to do some work to understand exactly what sections of our communities are going to be most badly affected over the next year and make sure that we have the support mechanisms in place to ensure that they are looked after.

“I am fearful for the economy of the Borders, we have seen lots of businesses announce potential job losses over the last three months and I do worry that this is just the beginning.

“We have to make sure that all of the economic initiatives that we have like the Borderlands Growth Deal and the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency are working in the right ways in the right places to ensure that we are creating new jobs and building the economy.”