News

The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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

 

Savings and switching in the new water market

Water deregulation provides a fantastic opportunity for 1.2 million businesses in the UK to trim their overheads and save around 10% or more on their water bills. Utilitywise estimate savings of over £200m are available on a national scale.

However, recently published statistics by MOSL (the Market operator) show that the much heralded ‘#Openwatermarket’ is failing small businesses especially and switching is actually decelerating.

a.     Only 2% (61k) of the 2.6m water meters have switched in the first 6 months

b.       This equates to less than 1% of businesses, as focus has been on larger corporate businesses with hundreds/thousands of meters in their estates.

c.     The number of meter switches fell 31% in the second quarter to just 25,010

d.       At this rate it will take until 2039 for all businesses in England to switch water supplier

Utilitywise would like Ofwat to be empowered by DEFRA to make the necessary changes that the water market needs.

WHAT POLICIES DO WE WANT FROM GOVERNMENT?

Utilitywise’s four-point plan to make the water market truly open, honest and competitive calls for:

1.       Enforced standardised and simplified pricing that is published in the public domain, giving businesses the chance to easily compare like-for-like water contracts and ensure all retailers are making prices available to out of region customers.

2.       Ensure that customers receive clear offers and tariffs from retailers no matter their location, by standardising the use of customer data held in MOSL, the central customer database used by the industry.

3.       Improved levels of understanding amongst businesses, encouraging them to review their current water contracts, and how to assess different options available.

4.       A review and assessment of the Scottish Water market conditions, to deliver comparable margins available to retailers to make competition come to life

To get a better deal for your business water, click here

SNP MSPs say Small Business Bonus benefits local companies

The Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus scheme has helped to support 5122 businesses in Dumfries and Galloway this year.

SNP MSPs Joan McAlpine and Emma Harper said the new figures proving once again the SNP Scottish Government’s commitment to local jobs and communities.

Across Scotland, the Small Business Bonus Scheme, brought about by the SNP Government in 2008/09, paid out over £226 million in 2017-18, supporting over 103,000 local firms by reducing their rates liability and taking some firms out of business rates altogether.

And across Dumfries and Galloway the number of firms benefitting from this flagship Scottish Government policy has risen from 3224 in 2008 to 5122 in 2017/18, with £8.1 million being spent in the region to support local businesses this year.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“These figures prove the success of the Small Business Bonus for firms across the region - to have more than 5000 businesses in Dumfries and Galloway and over 103,000 across Scotland benefitting from this policy is good for jobs and good for communities – helping to keep more money in our neighbourhoods and boosting our high streets.

“Over the last decade, the Scottish Government has taken strong action to support local businesses, while other parties have carped from the sidelines and chased cheap headlines rather than actually doing anything to support local jobs.”

Fellow South Scotland MSP Emma Harper added:

“It is the SNP that has delivered over £226 million of rates relief across Scotland in 2017/18 – and over £8.1million in Dumfries and Galloway alone.

“Only the SNP are taking the necessary action to help our local firms – and it is great to see so many firms benefitting from this in the last year.”Emma Harper MSP

McAlpine welcomes Minister’s meeting with Thornhill Station Action Group

MSP Joan McAlpine welcomed Transport Minister Humza Yousaf’s constructive meeting at the Scottish Parliament with Thornhill station campaigners.

The SNP MSP attended a cross-party meeting with the Thornhill Station Action Group and Mr Yousaf at the Scottish Parliament earlier today.

Mr Yousaf commended the group for engaging with MSPs from different parties, as well as the local school, employers and the wider community.

Speaking after the meeting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I was very grateful that Mr Yousaf met with theThornhill Station Action Group, and that the meeting was so constructive.

“One of the achievements of the SNP government is the opening and restoration of railway stations and lines. It’s a very popular policy – Mr Yousaf told us that more than 60 communities across Scotland are campaigning for new stations - but he acknowledged the strength of the socio economic case for Thornhill, which serves a very fragile rural area that is badly served by existing transport infrastructure.”

Thornhill station closed in 1965, and the Thornhill Station Action Group think re-opening it boost local employment prospects, stop the ‘brain-drain’ from the town and have a positive impact on the environment.

Ms McAlpine has been supporting the group since she was first approached last year – and she included reopening the station in her submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on refreshing the National Transport Strategy.

She said:

“I think the Thornhill Action Group have a really strong case to re-open Thornhill Station.

“I was also interested to hear students Georgie and Mia discussing how networking between schools for their Advanced Higher Modern Studies course was almost impossible due to the fact that there are no decent transport links to get to other schools in the region.

“At over 28 miles long, the Nith Valley line between Sanquhar and Dumfries is the longest stretch on the route without a station - it is clear to me that the communities of the mid Nith Valley and Glencairn would benefit considerably from a train station here.

“It’s always going to be a lot of work, but the Minister and his officials assured the group that they were following the correct process, and that Transport Scotland will be on hand to give advice.”

Award Winning Creamery at risk from Brexit says McAlpine

Joan McAlpine MSP has appealed to the Home Secretary to protect the award winning local creamery Loch Arthur from the effects of leaving the European Union.

Ms McAlpine wrote to Amber Rudd after a visit to Loch Arthur in Beeswing, which is run by the Camphill Scotland charity.

Loch Arthur is home to learning disabled adults who live and work beside volunteers from across Europe, many of whom are also long term residents. Often the volunteers are skilled occupational therapists and teachers.

Camphill Scotland fear immigration rules after Brexit could stop future volunteers coming to Scotland and will hurt hundreds of disabled people who rely on their support. 

The community, which has a farm shop and cafe as well as a bakery and creamery, was recognised as the best “Hidden Gem” at last week’s Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.

Speaking during a visit to Loch Arthur on Friday, the MSP said she was concerned to hear about the impact post-Brexit rules will have on these volunteers who do not meet the current income criteria for UK residency because they do not draw a salary.

During her visit, Ms McAlpine was told of a highly skilled American volunteer, who worked in the bakery as well as supporting residents  - but as an unsalaried third country national, she was sent back to America under UK immigration rules.

Camphill fear that unless specific exemptions are made, future volunteers from Germany, Spain and France and other EU countries will find themselves in a similar position.

The SNP MSP said:

 

“Loch Arthur is a very special place where people with support needs live and work collectively - in shared houses - with volunteers.

“But the Camphill community relies on young volunteers from Europe – with many staying for decades, and forming strong, familial bonds with those they support.

“I am extremely concerned that these long term volunteers will no-longer be able to meet residency rules post Brexit – and will be made to leave.  These volunteers are selfless. They work for nothing and the community as a whole allocate money on the basis of needs - for example for clothing and travel. It’s awful that people like that could be punished for being caring.” 

Ms McAlpine added:

“I have written to the UK Home Secretary to try and get some clarity on this matter, and have asked for the forthcoming immigration bill to consider making exceptions for communities such as Camphill.

“These communities have transformed the lives of so many vulnerable people thanks to the voluntary work of EU nationals, and it is essential that they are given reassurances that this will continue to be the case post-Brexit.”

The Camphill Community was established in 1939  by a group of Austrian Emigres who followed the teaching of Rudolf Steiner, who believed that education could benefit every child, whatever their ability. 

New Head Chef at Holiday Inn

Sebastien Voisin has been appointed Head Chef of the Holiday Inn Dumfries and its Bankend Bar & Brasserie.

Sebastien joins the culinary team at Holiday Inn Dumfries after years of study and experience as a Head Chef. Locals will be familiar with Sebastien as he joins from the renowned local restaurant Casa Mia where he was Head Chef for 8 years. He hopes to bring his unique vision to the Bankend Bar & Brasserie with a particular focus on service to create the best dining experience possible at this hidden gem eatery.

Provenance is of utmost importance to Sebastien – he strives to source the best suppliers in the area. He believes that the food is the main star of any meal, however service and ambiance is key to overall enjoyment. To create the best dining experience possible, Sebastien will regularly come out of the kitchen to meet diners in person and to receive their feedback first-hand and provide recommendations.

Commenting on his new appointment Sebastien said: “The Holiday Inn Dumfries has always been on my radar. This is a massive opportunity to take on a role at a hotel that is in such beautiful surroundings and with a great history. The atmosphere in the kitchen is great, and the team and I are looking to introduce some exciting menu changes, whilst respecting a few of the old favourites that guests love. The Bankend Bar & Brasserie is surprisingly relaxed and it is a perfect showcase for my food. I also want to maximise the use of the phenomenal space that is available for popular private dining, social banqueting and afternoon teas.”

Jamie Milligan, General Manager, added: “I am thrilled that I have been able to appoint someone as bright and talented as Sebastien to bolster the kitchen brigade and help lead the Bankend Bar & Brasserie to great culinary heights. I know he will drive our food offering forward as one of the best places to eat in Dumfries & Galloway.”

Holiday Inn Dumfries is located on the outskirts of the historic Crichton Estate, which boasts fantastic views of Dumfries and Galloway across 85 acres of parkland and gardens. The modern hotel is ideal for those travelling on business or leisure and offers comfortable rooms and excellent facilities.