CHANGE is on the horizon to the provision of sport, leisure and cultural services after Scottish Borders Council endorsed a new approach.

Members agreed to progress discussions with the board of Live Borders, which currently provides the services on the local authority’s behalf, to return some services under council control.

Elected members discussed options for the continued delivery of the services, including a continuation of the current governance model and alternative trust models, at the meeting on Thursday.

The return of all services to the council was also considered.

It was agreed to progress a move to a single member trust model, where the council will be the single shareholder/member, but a board will still operate with an independent majority.

This model will “improve council oversight and input into Live Borders and facilitate greater alignment to key priorities and service delivery”.

Live Borders will retain its independence and charitable status.

In conjunction with the change of model, the council has agreed, in principle, to return the Active Schools and sports development services to the council. A report will be brought back to council in August detailing the full implications of this and outlining how it can be implemented.

In September, councillors will then consider whether cultural and community services currently under Live Borders – such as libraries, museums, visitor attractions, town halls and community centres – will remain with the trust, be delivered by the council or a combination of both.

Live Borders was formed as an arms-length external organisation of the council in 2016, creating an integrated trust with the former Borders Sport and Leisure Trust to deliver services on behalf of the council.

It has 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.

In addition to Live Borders exhausting their own financial reserves through the investment of millions of pounds into facilities and maintaining services, the council has also supported Live Borders financially over a number of years, with additional funding over and above the annual budgeted management fee.

Alison Moore, chair of Live Borders, said: “I and my fellow Trustees accept today’s decision by elected members to seek to change the governance of Live Borders to that of a single member trust model, and we will work with council colleagues to ensure that this transition is orderly and takes place as quickly as possible.

“The uncertainty that has hung over the future of Live Borders has been difficult for the staff, who have continued to deliver excellent local services for Borderers through these challenging times. I pay tribute to them and offer them my continued unwavering support as we work through this period of change.

“The trust remains firmly committed to delivering on our vision of supporting a healthier, happier and stronger Scottish Borders.”

David Robertson, chief executive of Scottish Borders Council, said: “We are dedicated to advancing these initiatives without any disruption to our customers and I am confident that there will be no adverse impact on our customers throughout this transition period. I appreciate that this has been, and will be for a few months yet, an uncertain time for Live Borders colleagues. Their ongoing commitment to customers and service delivery, and the support provided to the transformational change programme and indeed the options appraisal is to be commended.”