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

 

Council Leader Issues Open Letter Over Budget

Following last weeks Council Budget announcement, Leader of the Council Elaine Murray has written an open letter explaining some of what happened before and after the announcement.

 

Dear Editor

On 25th September 2018 Dumfries and Galloway agreed the recommendations of a paper by the Chief Executive on modernising the council. The included agreement on the timetable of the budget, and that proposed final budgets required to be consulted on by the Section 95 officer 5 days before Full Council and published on 26th February. I applied the agreed procedure in chairing last week’s budget meeting. Only two proposals had been submitted by 26th February, the administration’s and Councillor Scobie’s, which he later withdrew, therefore there was only one budget proposal to debate. That was our agreed procedure.

 

The Conservative group had the same opportunities as the administration  to bring forward a budget by the required date. They received the transformation board proposals at the same time as the administration, and they could easily have asked the Council’s chief officers to produce papers based on a across the board cut across directorates, as we did. For whatever reason, they chose not to do so. Instead, they responded after the budget by issuing a wish list with no indication how it would have been paid for. Hardly responsible for a group who think of themselves as an administration in waiting.

Where I did deviate from the practise of previous leaders was by accepting an amendment from the Conservative group which would have resulted in the one valid budget proposal, ours, falling and, with it, the administration. I fail to see how this was dictatorial, I recognised that we no longer have a majority on the council and the council was entitled to decide as a body that it wanted a change of direction. As it happened, our budget passed.

 No member of the administration is rejoicing at some of the decisions we had to make, these are exceeding hard time, but we have produced a fiscally competent budget which, as I said during the debate, we felt was the least worst option,

Yours sincerely

Councillor Elaine Murray

Leader, Dumfries and Galloway Council

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE BACKS MSP’S CALL FOR LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR NEW ENTERPRISE AGENCY

The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee has given it’s backing to calls by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be subject to local accountability.

 

 

The Committee's support for local accountability is contained in the Stage 1 report from the Committee on the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.

The Committee has been considering the Bill, which aims to establish the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency specifically covering the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. 

The Committee gave its full backing to the establishment of the new agency. However, as well as calling for more local accountability than is currently planned in the bill, the committee made a number of other key recommendations on the role the new agency should play including ensuring that the new Board running the agency properly reflects the interests, skills, expertise and experience relevant to the South of Scotland.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth will now table a number of amendments to the bill including one setting a legal requirement for the new agency to consult locally over its Action Plan, performance and effectiveness.

Colin Smyth, who is the only MSP from the South of Scotland who sits on the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee said, “This is an important Bill for the South of Scotland as the new Agency will have a key role to play in tackling the big economic challenges we face in the area. However, as only South Scotland MSP who sits on the Parliamentary committee scrutinising and amending the Bill, I am determined to ensure the agency is very much rooted in the South of Scotland. It needs to have the local membership, budget and powers required to deliver the real change the South of Scotland economy needs”.

“One of the weaknesses of the Bill as it stands is that the proposed Agency is entirely accountable to Government Ministers in Edinburgh. I’m pleased the Committee has backed my calls for that to change and for there to be proper local accountability. I will now table a number of amendments to the bill including one making it a legal requirement for the Agency to properly consult the local community and to put in place mechanisms for the Agency to be held to account by people in the South of Scotland not just report to the Government”.    

As part of the Committee’s evidence gathering for their report a formal Parliamentary Committee meeting was held in Dumfries on 14 January and a workshop in Galashiels on 23 January. 

The Committee’s report will now be considered by the Scottish Government who will respond before the first debate on the Bill which is set to take place in the Scottish Parliament before Easter.

If Parliament votes in favour of the bill, it will move to Stage 2. That is when the Committee will have the opportunity to vote on possible amendments to the bill including a number planned by Colin Smyth. Finally, the bill will return to the main Parliament Chamber for Stage 3 where MSPs will have the chance to make further amendments and vote on the final amended bill.

 

Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety. Are you up to date?

Dumfries Chamber of Commerce would like to you to attend our complimentary event for local business owners at 9.30am on Wednesday 1st May 2019.

Join our expert HR and health & safety speaker from Peninsula at this brief but invaluable event, which will enhance the way you run your business by giving you the knowledge and advice to resolve any employee challenge.

Topics covered on the day will include:

Staff behaviour – such as performance, attendance, attitude
Contracts & handbooks – reviewing your documents of employment
Dealing with – sick pay, maternity leave, harassment and discrimination
Health & safety – risk assessments, fire & safety policies and procedures

During this upcoming event, you will discover the latest updates on the new "Good Work Plan" announced by the government on December 17th, which outlines details of the largest overhaul to employment rights for years and how these changes to legislation might affect your business in the near future.

Our Guest Presenter Ian Langford asks you this question -

"Your staff are your most valuable asset and they need protecting – but so does your business. How do you ensure you have everything covered?"

The event takes place at The Cairndale Hotel, May 1st between 09.30-12.30 with a free buffett lunch. 

 

BOOK ON TO THIS FREE EVENT BY CLICKING HERE

Scottish business confidence grows for second consecutive month

Bank of Scotland’ Business Barometer for February 2019 shows:

  • Overall confidence for firms in Scotland rose four points in the past month to five per cent
  • Firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was 17 per cent, compared with three per cent in January

Overall business confidence in Scotland rose four points during February to five per cent, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

Companies in Scotland report higher confidence in their business prospects, up 14 points to 17 per cent. When combined with their views on the economy overall, this gives an overall confidence figure of five per cent. 

Businesses’ hiring intentions show a net balance of 11 per cent of Scottish businesses expect to hire more staff during the next year, up 11 points on last month.

The rise in overall confidence in Scotland contrasts to the UK figures which show confidence fell 15 points to just five per cent as both firms’ optimism about the economy and their confidence in their own prospects slumped.

Across the UK, firms’ confidence in their own trading prospects fell 14 points to 13 per cent while economic confidence fell by 15 points to minus five per cent.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Fraser Sime, regional director, SME banking, Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “It’s promising to see the rise in confidence among businesses about their own prospects and recruitment plans.

“As they plan for growth, we will always be by the side of business to help firms reach their full growth potential.

“We recently committed to lend up to £1.6 billion to Scottish firms, just one of the ways we continue this support. I hope to see this upward trend continue and confidence continue to rise in businesses across Scotland.”

A net balance of 15 per cent of Scottish businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, down two points on a month ago.

Regional picture

Businesses in the North West showed the most confidence, at 12 per cent, ahead of the West Midlands (11 per cent) and the North East (seven per cent).

Those in Wales were the least confident, with an overall confidence of minus two per cent, six points below the national average.

 

 

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking commented: “Political uncertainty has clearly affected business confidence across the UK, but the underlying economy remains resilient and is able to absorb short-term volatility.

“The modest rise in optimism at the start of the year was no more than a blip as uncertainty continues to impact on business confidence. The results suggest that near-term economic growth prospects have moderated further, but there is potential for a recovery further out should uncertainties subside.”

The possible impact of a No Deal Brexit on the Scottish Economy

A ‘No Deal’ Brexit could have a dramatic impact on Scotland’s economy, with the potential for national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to fall by up to 7%, according to a new report by the Scottish Government’s Chief Economist.

 

 

The paper, ‘No Deal’ Brexit – Economic Implications for Scotland, sets out two potential ’No Deal’ scenarios, one of which would see short term disruption to supply chains lasting for a number of months, with the second scenario looking at an extended period of disruption.

Potential impacts to the economy of these two scenarios include:

  • Scotland’s trade with the EU would be significantly impaired, with a potential drop in Scottish exports by 10%-20%
  • Heightened economic uncertainty, which could reduce business investment in Scotland by £1 billion in 2019
  • A fall in exports and overseas investment, coupled with a broader economic slowdown, could result in a 10% - 30% depreciation in sterling
  • International net migration into Scotland, currently +13,000 a year, would be expected to fall, and potentially turn negative, as a result of a depreciation in Sterling and wider economic slowdown
  • An economic slowdown would be expected to result in the rate of unemployment increasing to between 5.5% - 8%, from current the current rate of below 4%. The top end of this rate would be equivalent to unemployment rising by around 100,000
  • Collectively, these pressures could push the Scottish economy into recession during 2019, with the potential for GDP to contract by between 2.5%-7%

Scottish Government research has already shown that the UK Government’s proposed Brexit deal could see a 6% fall in GDP by 2030, worth over £1,600 per person in Scotland.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said:

“This paper confirms that all forms of Brexit will harm Scotland’s economy and result in lower household incomes.

“People in Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU but our interests are being ignored by a UK Government that wants to take Scotland out of the European Single Market, which is eight times the size of the UK alone.

“However, the economic harm of Brexit will be exacerbated if the UK Government decides to crash out of the EU without a deal. Such an outcome, which the Prime Minister refuses to rule out, represents a clear and present danger to Scotland’s economy.

“There will be severe impacts for the economy, and for people and businesses across Scotland, under a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and these impacts have the potential to push the Scottish economy into a deep recession, similar in scale to the financial crash of 2008.

“When I met with the Chief Secretary to Treasury in Cardiff last week, I urged her to rule out a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and give me a cast iron guarantee that all lost EU funding would be replaced in full after Brexit. She could do neither.

“We will continue to call on the UK Government to immediately rule out the possibility of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and extend the Article 50 process. As a responsible government we are also continuing - and indeed intensifying - our work to prepare for all outcomes as best we can. However, whilst we will do everything we can to prepare, we will not be able to mitigate all of the impacts of the UK Government’s approach.”

The report also sets out the regions and sectors which will see the greatest impact of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, including agriculture and fishing, transport, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food and construction. However, all sectors would be negatively affected.