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

 

Council accredited with Living Wage

Dumfries and Galloway Council was accredited with becoming a Living Wage Employer today (30 June 2015). Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, presented the award to the Council Leader. A number of Council employees who have benefitted from the living wage joined the Leader for the presentation.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. The Living Wage is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.

Dumfries and Galloway Council Leader, Ronnie Nicholson, said:

“Last week, our Council approved a new anti-poverty strategy for Dumfries and Galloway. The strategy sets out what we will do to improve the lives of people in our region experiencing poverty, in all its forms. The strategy aims to tackle this through by creating actions that will address the causes of poverty. Our Council considers the Living Wage as the single most important contribution to tackling poverty across the region. Dumfries and Galloway is the lowest paid region in Scotland. I am proud that this council is playing its part in tackling that problem by delivering a Living Wage for our staff. But I want to see that rolled out to as many workers across our region through our partners and contractors. Therefore, we will be promoting Living Wage accreditation to all organisations in our region across the public, third and private sectors.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said:

“Congratulations to both Dumfries and Galloway Council on becoming accredited Living Wage employers. Local authorities play a vital role by setting an example for employers in their area. By signing up to the Accreditation Initiative, Dumfries and Galloway Council have ensured that all of their of employees will always get paid at least the Living Wage. It is great to see more and more organisations – of all shapes and sizes – signing up to accreditation and recognising the role of employers in tackling in work poverty.”

 

Land Reform Bill Launched

The Land Reform Bill has today been introduced to the Scottish Parliament - full details of the Bill including the Explanatory Notes and the Policy Memorandum can be found here.

The Scottish Government also issued a press release this morning to announce the new Bill, which can be found here.

Following the publication of Bill in the Scottish Parliament today, we have issued the following statement.
 
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The publication of this Bill will result in fundamental and far-reaching changes to the way that land is managed and owned in Scotland.
 
“Land reform campaigners continually say that too much land is owned by too few people. In reality, this legislation will have an impact on tens of thousands of people across Scotland who own and manage all sorts and sizes of land holdings.
 
“We have been very disappointed that in this debate private landownership is pitted against community ownership and landowners are seen as being against reform. This is wrong.
 
“We support community ownership but dearly hope that as this Bill goes through the Scottish Parliament, the major social, economic and environmental contribution of private landowners is also recognised. There is plenty of room for all types of landowners and much can be achieved for rural Scotland if owners work together in partnership.
 
“We welcome measures such as transparency and registration of ownership and increased community engagement which accord with our Landowners’ Commitment and an amnesty for notices for tenant farmers’ improvements – a measure we suggested.
 
“However, we have real concerns about key elements of this Bill which could have seriously detrimental impacts on land-based businesses and rural areas without seeming to have clear objectives in mind.
 
“The proposed right for government ministers to intervene and enforce the sale of property is a key concern. No-one would try to justify bad practice when it comes to land management but there desperately needs to be more clarity around the circumstances in  which a government minister thinks it will be right and proper for he or she to decide a landowner is a barrier to sustainable development and forcibly remove someone’s property.
 
“The proposed end to the exemption of business rates for sporting rates will add an administrative burden and cost to rural businesses which are already delivering significant public benefits. The lack of detail on this proposal means it is impossible for the sector to articulate what the impact will be on individual businesses and a full economic and environmental impact assessment is needed as a matter of urgency. 
 
“Another troubling issue is the proposal to very significantly extend the right of succession for secure tenant farmers. At the least a test which demonstrates that a successor has a working connection to the farm seems a fair and sensible additional provision and would help secure the ongoing productivity of the farm.
 
“This legislation follows hot on the heels of the Community Empowerment Bill which was passed only last week and it is the second major Land Reform Bill to go through the Scottish Parliament in less than 15 years.
 
“After a two-year long debate on land reform, we are now on the brink of an unprecedented amount of land-related legislation. Throughout this process we have said that private landowners are enthusiastic partners committed to helping make things happen in rural Scotland that benefit business and communities. In future, we firmly believe that any debate on land should be forward-looking and concentrated on how to make the best use of land. Confidence building for the future will be vitally important to underpin continued investment.” 
 
A full Briefing Note on the Bill will be published for members as soon as possible.

Return To Positive Inflation But Steady Hand Needed On Interest Rates

Commenting on the release of official data which shows that inflation rose slightly to a rate of 0.1% in May 2015, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Inflation remains at very low levels but is now no longer in a deflationary position.  Fuel prices have begun to rise at the pumps contributing to a 0.6% increase in transport prices between April and May but although the price of oil has risen since the beginning of the year, it remains 40% below where it was this time last year.

“We would fully expect inflation to begin its journey back towards the UK Government’s 2% target as the year goes on and as elements such as the differential between this year’s and last year’s oil prices continue to become less of a factor.  Nonetheless the Bank of England must maintain a steady hand on interest rates and keep these at their historic low at least for the time being.”

Council Invest in Capital Projects

At Policy and Resources committee next week (23 June), Councillors will be informed that our council has invested nearly £40m over the past financial year in capital projects across the region.

In March 2014, our Council agreed a Capital Investment Strategy covering the period 2014/15 to 2023/24.  As part of the budget setting process in February, Councillors agreed to invest in a number of priority projects between now and 2017/18.  During 2014/15 £6.2m was invested in these projects including next generation broadband, the new Dalbeattie Learning campus and the development of Dumfries Learning Town project.

In addition to the major priority projects £36.1m has been invested in a range of smaller projects including £6.3 m in school buildings and £12.8 m on improving the council’s infrastructure such as roads.

Overall capital spending on the agreed capital programme of priority projects in 2014/15 was £39.188 Million- 99.4% of the agreed funding.

In addition, to this Capital funding,   Councillors also agreed to set aside £1m of revenue funding during 2014/15 for planned preventative maintenance work to prevent existing asset deteriorating in condition, saving money in the long term. All this funding was fully utilised and approximately 91% of the works was carried out by local contractors.

Chair of Policy and Resources Committee, Cllr Ronnie Nicholson, said “As part of the budget setting process, Councillors agreed to the priority projects that our Council would be providing capital funding to in 2014/15.  This followed extensive consultation with the public on our investment proposals.  These projects are all in line with our Council’s Priorities and invest in key projects that seek to improve our region.  I am pleased that nearly the entire capital budget of almost £40m has been used to progress these projects over the past year, demonstrating our commitment to delivering what we said we would.

“This investment not only builds excellent new facilities for communities across the region but also helps create local jobs.  For example, 91% of the work on our programme of planned preventative maintenance has been carried out by local contractors. Even where no local firm has been able to carry out the major projects such as the planned new school buildings, we have been working with contractors to maximise local job opportunities”.

New Funding Announced for 2016

A brand new £200,000 events fund created to develop activity to celebrate Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design has been launched by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

Applications are now open for the events and festivals sector across Scotland to apply for a 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design event grant up to £20,000.

From textiles to technology, architecture to fashion and design, the year-long programme of activity beginning on 1 January until 31 December 2016, will shine the spotlight on Scotland’s greatest assets and icons, as well as its hidden gems.

Home to ground-breaking innovators, scientists, engineers, architects and designers for hundreds of years, Scotland will celebrate just some of these contributions during 2016, as well as showcasing the creative and innovative minds that continue to inspire and influence audiences across the globe and the modern world we live in today.

Supporting events from a minimum award of £4,000 up to a maximum award of £20,000, the funding will be awarded to create new event activity or enhance existing event programmes  which reflect the themes and support the objectives of the year, promoting Scotland, celebrating our achievements, encouraging participation and engagement and boosting tourism.

Minister for Tourism Fergus Ewing said:

“From our first Year of Homecoming in 2009 to our current Year of Food and Drink, the people of Scotland and our visitors have had the opportunity to enjoy our most valuable and celebrated assets. To build on this momentum, the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund will be used to deliver a series of events that take place across the country and throughout the year to celebrate all that is great about Scotland.”

 

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland said:

“2016 has been designated as a themed year in which Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design will be showcased and celebrated.  Themed years give Scottish tourism an edge, galvanise partners and create a strong collaborative platform to promote Scotland and its valuable attributes.”

 

“We are delighted to launch the dedicated 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design events fund which will help deliver a programme of activity aimed at supporting and driving the nation’s tourism and events sector during this special year.”

2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year.  The planned Festival of Architecture will connect Scottish communities and visitors with architecture through events and exhibitions, Scotland-wide.  The National Museum of Scotland turns 150 years old and will open ten new galleries showcasing Scotland’s internationally important collections of decorative art, design, fashion, science and technology.

NVA's plans to resuscitate Kilmahew woodland and St Peter's seminary, the modernist architectural masterpiece will gain pace, the creation of the new V&A Museum of Design Dundee will continue to take shape, and the new Queensferry Crossing - set to be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world - will officially open.

Applications open for 2016 funding:          Wednesday 10 June, 2015

Total Funding:                                              £200,000

Deadline for Applications:                           Friday 24 July, 2015

Events who wish to apply can do so online by visiting www.eventscotland.org/funding/year-of-innovation-architecture-and-design-2016