Challenging the Economic Climate in D&G

At Dumfries and Galloway’s Full Council meeting tomorrow (26th June), Members will hear about work being carried out to overcome the challenging economic climate currently facing Dumfries and Galloway.

This Council recognises that our region has recently been hit with a string of economic difficulties; particularly in Annan, Langholm, Lockerbie and Stewartry. This has demonstrated, not only how fragile some areas of our region’s economy are, but also that some businesses, both large and small, are unaware of public sector support which could be accessed prior to difficulties materialising.

Although the loss of jobs is tragic, there is some good news: Browns Food Group have announced expansion plans; they currently have a turnover of £80 million and 600 staff and, with a new facility, this will rise to over £100m and up to 800 staff.  Additionally, the Economic Development Service is pursuing the opportunity to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) project ‘spoke’ in Kelloholm on a site purchased by Browns and in collaboration with the College. This links with Skills priorities within the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) Work Plan and has the potential to be a Food and Drink innovation centre to enhance skills and learning.

In Annan, despite the challenges, there is the opportunity to attract a new investor to the Pinney’s site and the Stapleton Road Depot site is being cleared so that a local company can build a new unit and create more jobs. An application has also been submitted to the (SoSEP) for funding amounting to £250k to support Annan and the greater DG12 area to put in place a local solutions team who will advance projects and bring expertise to accelerate business opportunities, inward investment and bankable business case. Approval is awaited from the Cabinet Secretary on this.

In Lockerbie, James Jones has an expansion project underway which will see Curries Transport move their operation to this area part of this strategic project.

Significant Regeneration projects are being undertaken in Stranraer Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme as well as the Council’s Economic Development Capital Programme and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, local Community organisations and businesses are also investing.  This is in addition to significant forthcoming investment in Stranraer’s Waterfront area.

Employability and Skills facilitates Dumfries and Galloway’s Local Employability Partnership, which works to align skills resources and investment across the region. This service supports inclusive growth through tackling inequalities and supports young people, communities and businesses with the aim of increased wages and productivity for the region.

Modern apprenticeships are a key driver in building our local economy – for every £1 spent on apprenticeships the local economy gains £26: a high investment return. There are over 100 different types of apprenticeship frameworks available and local employers, who recruit a modern apprentice, can receive financial assistance to support the training element of the apprenticeship.

Depute Leader, Rob Davidson commented: “Members are being asked to agree to lobby for Dumfries and Galloway businesses to have greater opportunity to access more substantial government funding, particularly in the food and drink sector, but also other other key sectors across our region. It is vital that this Council can support small, medium sized businesses (SMEs) and micro businesses and it would be beneficial for us to be able to provide that support through a Small Business Grants Scheme. Providing Members agree on Tuesday, to make a difference the Scheme should ideally be of the value of £500k with grants to the value of £5k to £20k. This Council will then be in a position to work with SoSEP and the Scottish Government to develop such a Scheme.”

Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said: “This Council, in December 2017 and in the 2018-19 Budget, recognised the need to resource the Borderlands and put in place financial resources to deliver and support joint working. At the same time the region has seen new opportunities with the announcement of a new Economic Agency for the South of Scotland, with interim arrangements through SoSEP, along with the Borderlands’ Inclusive Growth Deal. We are determined to capitalise on all opportunities and want to reassure the public that, despite these difficult times, we are doing everything we can to address the situation and support those affected as much as possible.”