A ‘FLEXIBLE working’ policy at Scottish Borders Council headquarters has resulted in “significant environmental benefits”, a senior councillor has assured the public.

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the executive member for service delivery and transformation, was responding to a question posed at a meeting on Thursday, April 27.

East Berwickshire councillor James Anderson suggested there was unhappiness among some councillors at what he referred to as the local authority’s ‘working from home’ strategy.

He questioned the benefits of council staff not working out of the council headquarters in Newtown St Boswell.

It follows an intervention last week from senior councillor David Parker, the executive member for health and wellbeing, who raised the issue of the office complex being “completely empty” many days of the week.

But Mr Rowley offered a staunch defence of the policy.

He said: “The council since the commencement of the first COVID-19 lockdown has operated a hybrid staffing model, whereby those office-based staff who can effectively operate using online technology, such as Microsoft Teams, which I’m using to speak to you today, have been encouraged to work either at home or in an office, where home working is not practical or doesn’t suit them.”

Mr Rowley said that the council’s ‘flexible working’ policy applied to 1,500 council employees – of which 400 were previously based at council HQ.

The remainder of the council’s staff – 4,168 employees – work in schools, social work centres, care homes and other frontline services.

It is estimated that 60 to 70 staff ‘sign in’ to council headquarters each week.

Mr Rowley said the flexible working policy had produced “significant environmental benefits”.

He explained: “I’m addressing you by Microsoft Teams today. That has saved the best part of 70 miles of travelling and the mileage payments that go with that.

“There is no evidence of a diminishment of service caused by flexible working.

“We do not have a ‘working from home’ strategy we have a ‘flexible working’ strategy. Today we are doing a blended meeting which will probably have saved hundreds of miles being travelled on Borders’ roads.”

Mr Rowley also said the policy had also bolstered the local authority’s ability to recruit staff.