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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.

 

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.

MP urges council caution with tax increase power

A rise in the council tax increase cap from an above inflation three to 4.79 per cent has been condemned by Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack.

The measure was in SNP Scottish Government's Budget which passed a vital vote at Holyrood last week with the support of Green MSPs.

As a result of the agreement, local authorities will have the option of hitting households with a larger than anticipated council tax rise in the 2019/20 financial year which begins in April.

Mr Jack, a former member of the UK Treasury Select Committee, warned that should the full rise be imposed in Dumfries and Galloway, one of Scotland's lowest wage economies, it would add to hardship facing many households.

He said: "I would urge council members to avoid the temptation of imposing the maximum increase available when they decide on the council tax level for this region later in the month.

"Scotland already has higher taxes than other parts of the UK which is damaging competitiveness and the economy."

He pointed out that the UK Government was increasing Scottish Government's block grant by £521 million in real terms in 2019/20, providing an opportunity to SNP Ministers to offer greater support to local authorities.

Mr Jack also opposed a commitment in SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay's Budget to explore introducing legislation allowing councils the power to impose a 'tourist tax.'

 

 

He said that such a levy could prove particularly damaging in Dumfries and Galloway where tourism is an increasingly important industry and employer.

Mr Jack added: "We are right next to Cumbria and the Lake District, which is currently free of such a tax, so to impose a levy on accommodation here could drive potential visitors south of the border."

Region could be hit by triple tax bombshell

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson has warned that the region could set to be hit with a ‘triple tax bombshell’.

 

 

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP’s claim comes after the SNP and Greens agreed a Budget deal last week which gave councils the power to raise council tax by almost five per cent, potentially introduce a tourist tax on visitors and hitting employers with a so-called ‘car park tax’ at work.

Mr Carson believes this potential ‘triple tax bombshell’ could be damaging for Dumfries and Galloway, with tourism such an important industry for the area and a huge number of workers relying on cars to get to their workplaces.

The constituency MSP also hit out at the SNP’s continued underfunding of councils with Dumfries and Galloway facing a further cut in their budget this year putting local services and jobs under further risk despite an increase in the block grant from Westminster.

The plans for a workplace tax levy have also been thrown into confusion by comments from South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine, on Representing Border, where she appeared to go against the plans, saying “I wouldn’t imagine it would be enacted in the south of Scotland to be perfectly honest with you.”

Commenting Finlay Carson MSP said: “The Budget agreed between the SNP and the Greens is completely unravelling, the more we learn about it.

“In order to get the Greens on board, the SNP have agreed to a whole host of potential taxes which would have a detrimental effect right across Dumfries and Galloway.

“Hard working families could be punished with council tax rises of almost five per cent, a direct result of the SNP’s failure to properly fund our councils over their decade in power.

“Furthermore, councils have the power to charge visitors to the region as well as potentially hitting people for taking a car to work.

“Tourism is such a major industry to the region and I have already heard concerns from businesses if this was imposed in this region about the impact on the local economy.

“Hardworking families will be completely dismayed at the prospect of being hammered even further for simply having the audacity to use their car to travel to work.

“And now we see Joan McAlpine pour scorn on her own party’s idea, before it has even got off the ground.

“The SNP and Greens must recognise that their Budget is only going to deliver a ‘triple tax bombshell’ for Dumfries and Galloway and is completely misguided.”

“I have real concerns looking towards the local councils budget.

“The SNP Government’s underfunding of our local authority combined with the appalling track-record of the Labour administration in regards to growing our local economy, we face the prospect of a ‘Pay more, get less’ budget, with misguided policies that favour hand-outs over hand-ups.