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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

£6 million awarded to local food processors.

Eighteen projects icluding one in Dumfries & Galloway have been awarded a share of more than £6 million, enabling companies to invest in infrastructure, upgrade or replace facilities, and purchase new equipment, as well safeguarding 345 jobs, and creating 156 new ones across Scotland.

 

 

The Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) scheme funding includes an award of £122,681 to AH & HA Brown in Newton Stewart. 

Quality Pork Processors in Brechin were also amongst the recipients, receiving £558,965.40, to increase infrastructure and purchase equipment, helping to safeguard 72 jobs and create a further three jobs in the process.  

Welcoming the news, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“Food and Drink continues to be one of Scotland’s success stories of recent years, with a turnover of more than £13.9 billion last year – and directly employing more than 110,000 people across the country.

“And the Scottish Government is doing everything we can to support the sector’s long-term ambition to double in value to £30 billion in the next 12 years.

“The FPMC scheme is an important part of that ambition, using joint Scottish Government and European Union funding to give local businesses a helping hand, which will ensure the long-term viability of our primary producers, and maximise export markets for our fantastic Scottish produce.”

Petra Wetzl, Managing Director of WEST Beverages Ltd, said:

“We are thrilled to have been awarded an FPMC grant. This will allow us to build a state of the art drinks production and packaging facility in Scotland enabling not only WEST to achieve its ambitious growth plans for the next 10 years but also to support other thriving drinks businesses across Scotland by helping them with their ongoing kegging, bottling and canning requirements.” 

“WORKERS TAX” A DISTRACTION OVER GOVERNMENT CUTS TO COUNCIL BUDGETS

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has labelled plans by the SNP and Greens for a tax on ‘workplace parking spaces’ as a distraction from the real budget issue of massive cuts to council budgets.

 

 

The plans to give council’s the power to introduce such a levy are part of a deal between the SNP Government and Green MSPs to secure support from the Green’s for the Government’s budget.

However, as a result of the budget Dumfries and Galloway Council faces having to make over £16m of cuts to balance the books- taking the total cuts to nearly £100m since 2010.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “The proposals for a so-called Workplace Parking levy are unravelling before our eyes as everyday new questions are asked that the SNP Government simply can't answer such as who will be exempt. Under the plans a Health Board Chief Executive on over £100,000 a year won't have to pay but a Carer who works for charity on the minimum wage will. A company cleaner will have to pay the same levy as a company boss, so you really don't get much more regressive than this workers tax and that's why Labour will oppose it in Parliament". 

“But the real tragedy of the deal between the Greens and the SNP on the budget is the massive cuts to council budgets will still go ahead and the debate over the workplace parking levy is a real distraction. If this budget goes ahead we will see hundreds more council jobs being axed and local services being cut by another £16.5 million and that will be devastating for our area”

DGCouncil Rules Out Tourist & Parking Taxes

In an open letter to residents and businesses in Dumfries and Galloway, Council Leader Elaine Murray has ruled out the use of the Workplace Parking Levy “Parking Tax” and Transient Visitors Levy “Tourist Tax”.

 

 

The two Levies are expected to be written into legislation over the coming year with discretion given to local authorities to determine if they wish to use the measures. The introduction of the Levies was part of the SNP/ Green Budget Deal which leaves Dumfries and Galloway Council with a £16million funding gap for the next financial year.

There has been considerable opposition to the ‘Parking Tax’ from local Trade Union representatives who have concerns that local low paid workers could end up forking out hundreds of pounds a year to drive to work.

In her open letter to residents and businesses, Councillor Leader Elaine Murray rules out the use of both levies and confirms there are no plans to implement them in Dumfries and Galloway.

Councillor Elaine Murray said, “Under my leadership the Council will not be introducing either a Tourist Tax or a Workplace Parking Levy as they are not appropriate for our rural area. Neither address the real challenge facing local authorities which are the cuts in Government funding.

As a direct result of the UK Conservative Government austerity and cuts in funding by the SNP Scottish Government our Council faces a £16million funding gap, taking the total cuts imposed on our Council to over £100million since 2010.

There has been much debate by local politicians over the use of both of the Tourist Tax and Workplace Parking Levy over the past week. There have never been any plans, or any desire, to implement either of these in Dumfries and Galloway. I would ask local politicians to stand up for our region and argue for a fair funding deal for Dumfries and Galloway which ends the cuts to our Council and to local services.”

Community Fight Back Against High Street Absentee Landlords To Continue

Dumfries’ Midsteeple Quarter were upbeat despite failing in their attempt to buy two High Street buildings for the community at an auction in London today. The fantastic response to their Crowdfunding campaign and the positive support from the town and further afield has taken everyone by surprise.

Matt Baker, Project Director for Midsteeple Quarter, commented: “It’s been unbelievable – we’ve raised over £21,000 in small donations in less than 2 weeks, from members of the public in Dumfries and beyond.”

“It’s hugely disappointing that we lost out today, but this was always going to be a long haul and we can’t expect to win every game. The essential facts haven’t changed – we need to re-imagine our town centre as a place with a mixed offer of housing, enterprise space, services and leisure. We really feel like this tide is starting to turn and Dumfries is at the leading edge of this change.”

The group asked fellow citizens to respond to their emergency request to come together, as a town, and bid take 113-119 High Street back into community ownership and challenge the cycle of property speculation. The properties were placed in an auction sale by Pension Fund Columbia Threadneedle, they form part of the group of High Street buildings within the community-led Midsteeple Quarter regeneration project for the town centre.

Local Community Benefit Society, Midsteeple Quarter was recently granted money from the Scottish Land Fund to prepare plans and negotiate with the London-based pension fund for a community buy-out of 113-119 High Street. Without any warning, a high-level decision within the pension fund was taken to dump a number of their derelict Scottish commercial buildings at the auction taking place in London – their buildings in Dumfries.

The bidding took place in London on Tuesday 5th February. The auction for 113-119 High Street escalated very quickly and was in excess of £100,000 in less than 3 minutes. An unknown phone bidder is now the new owner of these buildings, which sold for £142,000.

Matt Baker further commented: “The fight is not over. We have a dream and nothing has changed in that – culture shift does not happen overnight. We’re in it for the long haul. We’d love to talk to the new owner – maybe they share our Dumfries dream and we can work together.”

You can find more about the Midsteeple Quarter project here: http://www.midsteeplequarter.org/

MP slams drive-to-work parking tax bombshell

A tax on workers who drive to work and park has been slammed as 'totally ill-thought-out' by Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack.

 

 

The Westminster representative said that he felt compelled to speak out on the move by the SNP Scottish Government because of deep concerns expressed to him by constituents since the plan was revealed.

Details emerged during the Holyrood Budget process when SNP Ministers last week agreed to take forward the parking tax concept to secure Green Party support to vote their financial plans through.

Some estimates put the potential annual cost per vehicle space at more than £400 per year.

Mr Jack said: "Whatever way this is presented, a parking tax on workers using their car to go to their place of employment would be outrageous in a rural area like Dumfries and Galloway.

"This totally ill-thought-out plan would be economically damaging and disruptive, particularly to small businesses, whether the bill falls on the employer or employee. 

"The money ultimately comes from the customers and if prices go up, sales are likely to fall, and that could mean fewer jobs."

Mr Jack also pointed out that public sector vacancies in the region could also become harder to fill as the charges would also apply to vital roles like school teachers.

He said: "It appears the parking levy option would be applied by local authorities as an income stream for themselves.

"That means money generated through their own employees' parking would end up being moved between departments for no gain but creating extra administrative costs."

The former member of the UK Treasury Select Committee pointed out that while the plan was being presented as a green measure to cut car use there was little alternative in the south of Scotland.

He said: "We only have limited public transport and in many towns on-street and public parking are already under intense strain and the situation could become worse under these measures.

"I fear the end result could be even less public parking spaces available as workers use spaces elsewhere and if employers reduce the number of workplace spaces they offer."

Mr Jack added that while local authorities would make the final decision on imposing such a charge, tight council budgets meant the threat would continue to hang over firms adding uncertainty.

The Scottish Conservatives group at Holyrood plan to resist moves to have the tax introduced through the upcoming Transport (Scotland) Bill.