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

 

Plans to extend quarry life

The owners of a major Dumfriesshire quarry have applied to extend its lifespan for a further 24 years.

Broom Quarry is part of a 51 hectare (126 acres) site on a former Ministry of Defence complex between Powfoot and Annan.

Operators Hoddam Contracting estimated that the extraction area contained 2.2 million tonnes of sand and gravel.

Dumfries and Galloway Council planning officials have recommended that the plans are approved.

New hopes for settlement over DGOne

There are hopes that a legal wrangle over a troubled Dumfries leisure centre could reach an "amicable" conclusion.

The council-run DG One complex has been closed for more than year as it awaits repairs to major structural defects.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has been seeking compensation from Kier Construction, the contractor which built the facility.

A senior councillor said he was hopeful of a positive outcome from mediation talks between the parties.

Discussions between the local authority and the contractor have been adjourned to allow both sides to reflect on negotiations.

    

Tom McAughtrie, chairman of the council's community and customer service committee, said the nature of the talks cannot be discussed until a conclusion is reached.

He added: "I am very hopeful we can get an amicable agreement there."

A spokesman for Kier Construction said: "Kier has met with Dumfries and Galloway Council for mediation discussions.

"Under the rules guiding this mediation we are unable to make any further comment until this process is concluded."

Council officers have said repairs to DG One could take 18 months to complete and they are estimated to cost between £6m and £10m.

Jobs market sees modest rise

The number of people placed in work in Scotland rose only modestly last month, according to a survey.

Recruitment consultancies reported strong growth in demand for staff, particularly for permanent roles.

But the Bank of Scotland's Report on Jobs suggested fewer candidates were available to fill posts.

The bank's chief economist, Donald MacRae, said the findings suggested business confidence in the Scottish economy was "holding up".

Average starting salaries rose again in September, in line with a trend seen since March 2013.

However, both permanent salaries and hourly wages for temp staff rose at slower rates.

Meanwhile, the latest survey data pointed to a further strengthening of demand for staff in September.

The rise in permanent job openings was the greatest seen since February, while temporary vacancies grew at the joint-fastest pace since January.

IT and computing showed the strongest increase in demand for both permanent and temporary staff.

The availability of candidates for both permanent and temporary vacancies fell during September.

However, the report added that the decrease was far less marked than across the UK as a whole.

Mr MacRae said: "These results suggest that business confidence in the Scottish economy is holding up despite the slowdown in growth evident earlier in the year."

New flexibilities over business rates

Councils will get new powers to cut business rates later this month, Deputy First Minister John Swinney will announce today.

Local authorities will be able to lower rates bills for businesses in their area from October 31, under an order laid in Scottish Parliament by Scottish Ministers.

The order, which uses powers under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 which passed in June of this year, means councils will be able to reduce rates bills based on criteria they choose, such as the type of property, its location, occupation or activity.

Mr Swinney said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to giving communities real control over their own futures. This substantial new power, which will give councils more control over business rates, and an opportunity to tailor them to their local area.

“We have already set a strong platform nationally by delivering the most competitive business taxation in the UK; for example the Small Business Bonus Scheme alone reduces or removes business rates for more than 96,000 properties. Scottish councils will be able to use these powers from the end of this month and, in contrast to England, will be able to retain all the business rates they collect.

“With these new flexibilities councils could, for example, use their local knowledge to attract new investment into town centres and help create vibrant communities where people want to live, socialise and do business.”

Councillor Kevin Keenan, COSLA’s Finance Spokesman, said: “COSLA welcomes the new business rate provisions in the Community Empowerment Act and while COSLA’s ambitions are much greater we see this as a positive start to the journey on increasing local flexibility of funding and taxation powers for councils.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council Supports Credit Union Development

Protecting our most vulnerable residents is a key priority for Dumfries and Galloway Council. In the current challenging financial climate we believe that with the right assistance people can be empowered to help themselves change their situations. One way The Council believes they can do this is by managing their finances through the Credit Union movement.

Credit Unions are financial institutions formed by an organised group of people with a common bond providing members with flexible savings, loans and a range of other financial services. Credit unions differ from banks in several ways which allows them to pay dividends to their members and offer low cost loans with no service fees. There are 2 credit unions based in Dumfries and Galloway: one in Dumfries and one in Stranraer.

Dumfries and Galloway Council have now ensured the Credit Union’s development over the next three years by confirming an allocation of £105k. This was agreed by Council Members at Welfare Reform Sub Committee on 8th October and will be allocated over a three year period. This is in tandem to the additional funding from the Development Project partnership; with £19,000, already confirmed through the Council’s External Funding Unit Grant.

It is anticipated that the Credit Union’s capacity and resilience will increase over the next three years, along with an increase in membership and products. This will enable the movement to operate without the need for additional development support at the end of this period

The Credit Union Development Project, which was established in 2013 as a partnership between Dumfries and Galloway Council, DGHP and Loreburn Housing Association, has been an effective way of increasing awareness of the Credit Union movement.  It has increased the capacity of Credit Unions in Dumfries and Galloway to offer better and wider-ranging services to households and communities.

Although there have been great achievements over the past two years, there is still much to do. With the advent of Universal Credit and wider poverty issues facing the region, The Council believes it is imperative that the Credit Union movement is given every support to assist in mitigating the effects of poverty and debt within our communities. The promotion of Credit Unions is a specific action within the Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy and we will do this most successfully through continued partnership working and engagement.

With a range of accounts, savings schemes and low cost loans to suit all, membership of the Solway Credit Union has already increased by over 26% since the start of the project. 

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Ronnie Nicholson recently paid a visit to the Solway Credit Union in Dumfries to see for himself what the Credit Unions are offering.

Councillor Nicholson said: “I am delighted to be visiting the Solway Credit Union today and to see that the Council’s on-going investment in our local Credit Unions is being put to such good use. We will continue working with our Partners to help people make the right financial decisions for their situation. By supporting Credit Unions we are committing to tackling the causes and effects of inequality and severe hardship by helping people to manage their finances in this difficult financial climate.”

“This is just one strand of the ongoing work we are carrying out to tackle severe hardship in the Region, not just this week, which is Challenge Poverty Week, but for long as it takes.  By encouraging people to save and manage their money effectively we will empower our communities to make the most of their assets and therefore increase their opportunities.”

On the back of Councillor Nicholson`s visit, Donald Thomson, Regional Development Officer (Credit Unions) and Solway Credit Union`s Project Worker said: “I am extremely pleased with the progress we are making in developing local credit unions, which would not have been possible without the continued support from the Credit Union Development Project partners – namely The Council, DGHP and Loreburn Housing Association. Much time has been spent in expanding the admin capacity, infrastructure and product range so that we are now reaching a point where we can really start to swell the membership numbers. Added size and strength will mean that the credit unions are able to help even more people by providing a safe home for savings, a source of affordable credit, and support with budgeting for those on Universal Credit. “

If you would like to find out more or join your local credit union, for people who live or work in Nithsdale, the Stewartry or Annandale and Eskdale please contact:

Solway Credit Union, The Hub, 24-26 Friars Vennel, Dumfries DG1 2RL or visit www.solwaycreditunion.co.uk

For those living or working in Wigtownshire, please contact:

Stranraer Credit Union, 25 Hanover Square, Stranraer DG9 7AG or visit www.stranraercreditunion.co.uk