TORY councillors in the Borders have been accused of being “tone-deaf” after pledging to raid council coffers to fund coronation party events.

The Conservative administration has proposed to splash £50,000 of savings to “create a fund for communities to host celebratory community events to mark the King’s coronation weekend”.

Councillors will consider the plan at a meeting next week, but the SNP/Green group have said they will not support the plans and will instead lodge an amendment calling for the £50k to be distributed to local foodbanks.

It comes ahead of a special meeting the following week which will see decisions made on how to plug a £7.2 million real terms funding gap to provide council services.

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The move would mirror steps taken by the council last June to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

SNP councillor Fay Sinclair said: “For the administration to propose dipping into reserves to fund parties is frankly tone-deaf.

“With soaring inflation hitting the council’s budget, we are having to consider putting up charges to deliver essential council services but at the same time the Conservatives say £50k can be found for taxpayer-funded parties.

“People can choose to mark the King’s Coronation in May, but at a time when lots of people are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table due to the cost of living crisis, we don’t think it is right to use public funds in this way.

“If the council wants to assist communities in taking part in the ‘Coronation Big Lunch’, we think the money would be better spent by local foodbanks to ensure everyone is able to access food that weekend and beyond.” 

A paper due to be considered by councillors next week states that “a sum of £50k is allocated from reserves to create a fund for communities to host celebratory community events to mark the King’s Coronation Weekend May 6 to May 8 2023, with a focus on supporting both the Coronation Big Lunch on May 7 and the Big Help Out on May 8".

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An amendment lodged by Sinclair on behalf of the SNP/Green Group instead notes lottery funding is available for coronation events and agrees to distribute the £50k identified to foodbanks and community larders across the Scottish Borders.

The report says: “It has been recognised that there is a desire within some communities that they would like to mark the occasion of the King’s coronation.

“It is therefore proposed that a sum of £50k is allocated from reserves to create a fund for communities to host celebratory community events to mark the King’s coronation weekend.

"Rather than a fund which invites applications, it is proposed that a grant is offered to each of our 69 community councils across the Scottish Borders. Community councils will be sent an email on February 20 asking if they would like to host an event/events in their area and advising them what the grant allocation would be.

"If they wish to host an event/or support other events in their area, (which must be inclusive, open to all within their community and based on ideas from their local community), they will simply respond and the award will be processed in the same way as their current support grant.”

It added: “The allocation to each community council will be based on per head of population, in line with the current allocation arrangements of the Community Council Support Grant, which is a tried and tested method that has been used for a number of years.

"This would mean grant awards of between £540 and £1,780 depending on the size of the community council.”

Campaign group Our Republic has warned it would be an "incomprehensible" move to spend the cash in this way.

Its convener Tristan Gray said: "In normal times, this would be decadent and ugly – during a cost of living crisis, it borders on incomprehensible.

"Councils across the country are crying out for more funding in a desperate attempt to feed the poorest in our society, and the Borders administration plans a £50,000 donation to our multi-millionaire monarch?

"There are thousands of people living in poverty in the council area, none of whom will ever meet Charles Windsor outside a staged event. Those people, including almost 3000 under-16s, would benefit vastly from those funds being spent on providing vital services, like operating warm places or food banks.

"People cannot feed themselves on empty pageantry.

"If Charles wants the country to host ‘glorious’ pomp, he is more than capable of paying for it himself, even if leaving children hungry to spoil a monarch would be more in keeping with royal tradition."