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

 

CURRENT B&B SUPPORT SCHEME IS ‘DEEPLY UNFAIR’ AND MUST BE RECONSIDERED – COLIN SMYTH

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has branded aspects of a new Bed and Breakfast Hardship Scheme “deeply unfair” and called on the Scottish Government to make changes to ensure more businesses are able to access funds.

As it stands, the scheme - which pays out a one off grant of £3,000 - requires claimants to have not received any other Government support during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, this has meant a significant number of B&Bs are not eligible for the scheme.

For many months before this scheme was set up, B&B owners were under the impression they were not eligible for any support, particularly those who did not have business bank accounts which was a restriction placed on existing schemes. Those owners were advised to apply for Universal Credit or the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. However, as a result, many businesses are now barred from accessing the new Hardship Scheme.

Colin Smyth has written to Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture Fiona Hyslop to demand this restriction is removed, after being contacted by a large number of constituents concerned about their financial future.

 

Colin Smyth said: “We have a huge number of B&Bs in the south of Scotland and a significant number have contacted me about their concerns that they are banned from receiving money from the B&B Hardship Fund because they have previously claimed other Government support. That support can be a little as a few pounds a week of Universal Credit - far short of the £3,000 grants this scheme pays out.

“This seems deeply unfair to me; particularly given the length of time it has taken to establish a fund for these businesses. Those who needed financial support most urgently had no option but to apply for other sources, and as a result it is those most in need who will be excluded from this scheme.

“For many months before this scheme was set up, B&B owners have been under the impression that they are not eligible for any business support schemes and advised to apply for Universal Credit or the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. 

“However, as a result of following this advice many businesses are now being barred from accessing the new Hardship Fund.

“Many of these businesses would have automatically been eligible for sizeable grants if they paid Business Rates rather than Council Tax, regardless of what other support schemes they applied for. 

“They have already faced a huge amount of uncertainty and disappointment during this period, and should not be forced to meet a higher criteria for support now.

“I have written to Fiona Hyslop to demand she remove this criteria and allow B&B owners the chance to claim through this fund. It would throw them a vital life line during a completely unprecedented time.”

Council to Discuss Zero Waste Park Investment

Dumfries and Galloway Council will meet on Thursday 25 June and be asked to approve the £12.8million investment in the Dumfries Zero Waste Park.

This new facility will allow a flexible, state of the art approach to recycling for the entire region and will have three key features;
• A building to receive the dry recyclates collected from households across the region for sorting and bulking before onward sale/disposal
• A modern, safe and efficient household waste recycling centre to replace the constrained facility presently located at Locharmoss
• A refuse collection vehicle stabling, fuelling, washing and minor-maintenance facility

The three-phase approach to completing the site has already started, with design progressing, and has a completion window of late 2021 to April 2022, with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 a key consideration in the work plan flexibility. The Communities Committee, the Waste Strategy Implementation Sub Committee and the Finance, Procurement and Transformation Committee have received reports on the site plan and costs, but it will fall to Members on 25 June to sign off on the investment from the Council’s Capital Investment Strategy.

Another key part of the report being tabled to Members that is up for approval is the roll out of kerbside recycling. It is planned to start this 3 bin approach to recycling in the West of the region, where kerbside recycling has existed for some years. The report details that by late this year, the rollout of the new system will have taken place in Wigtown area.

Elaine Murray Council Leader 2017Council Leader Elaine Murray said; “This is a comprehensive report that summarises how we as a Council will take forward our recycling arrangements in the medium term. The investment in the Zero Waste Park will allow us to function more efficiently and provide a recycling service to residents, which is vital in terms of tackling climate change and sustainability.”

Depute Leader Rob Davidson said; “I'm delighted to see the plans for kerbside recycling, and the regionwide approach we’re taking on this. As a Council that strives for equality, it is vital we provide the same service in Langholm and Closeburn as we do in Dalbeattie and Whithorn. This report sets out how we’ll do this.

D&G to Host U18 Women's World Championship Tournament

Ice Hockey UK and Dumfries and Galloway Council have won their bid to host the 2021 Under-18 Women's World Championship in Scotland.

The Division II Group A tournament will be held at the Dumfries Ice Bowl from 19th to 22nd January 2021.

Great Britain Under-18 Women will be joined by Netherlands, Australia and Spain for the four-team IIHF tournament.

The event is subject to various government restrictions being lifted by the time of the tournament.

IHUK general secretary, Andy French, said: "We have a long-standing relationship with Dumfries and we are excited to be taking international ice hockey back there again.

"I know the IIHF rate the venue, hotels and the all-round facilities very highly and we are proud to be hosting in the UK once again."

 

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Dumfries and Galloway Council event champion, Adam Wilson, said: "The news that our council has been chosen to hold another World Championship event is fantastic news.

"Our council has gained a reputation of being able to deliver world-class events within the region, particularly at the Dumfries Ice Bowl.

"These events, which bring with them significant economic impact, provide opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses in our region, in tandem with creating opportunities to inspire our young people, raise ambition and support children to be healthy and active.

"I look forward to working with Ice Hockey UK and partners to deliver this events."

FIRST MINISTER’S PHASE-2 RETAIL PLANS WILL LEAD TO MORE JOB LOSSES FOR RURAL AREAS

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has hit out at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Phase-2 plans for retail, which will allow large shops such as IKEA to re-open, while small shopping centres in rural areas must remain closed.

The First Minister announced on Thursday that as of June 29, most shops can open their doors for the first time since lockdown measures were announced in March.

However, she said indoor shopping centres would still be prohibited from re-opening, other than to allow access to essential shops like pharmacies.

Colin Smyth believes this policy might be appropriate for shopping centres in big cities, however, it isn’t right for small shopping centres such as the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries.

 

ColinSmythMSP

He said: “In announcing the second phase for lifting Scotland’s lockdown, the First Minister raised expectations but then thwarted them. 

“One area which is of particular concern is that large retail units like IKEA on the outskirts of Edinburgh can re-open, while small shopping centres like the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries can’t, except for access to an essential shop like a pharmacy. 

“This policy might be appropriate for large shopping centres in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, but it is very hard to see how it fits those in smaller towns. When you look at average footfall, it is impossible to argue that smaller shopping centres should remain closed and I would urge the Scottish Government to urgently reassess this policy.

“The consequence of a continued shut down will be that retail units in smaller shopping centres close for good, leading to job losses.

“Rural areas have already suffered a lot during the pandemic and while lockdown was essential to control the pandemic, many people in our region are still suffering the economic consequences.”

LOCAL MSP URGES PARENTS TO KEEP PRESSURE ON THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO ENSURE MORE CHILDREN CAN GET BACK TO SCHOOL IN AUGUST

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged parents across the region to keep pressure on the Scottish Government in a bid to ensure the right back to school plans are rolled out in August.

Over the past couple of weeks, councils have been preparing contingency plans for children to return to school later in the summer, while the Scottish Government has refused to come up with the money they will need for costs such as extra school transport and more cleaning.

Colin Smyth has said while councils are doing the best job they can given the challenges the face, much more needs to be done to get children back to school for as much of the week as safely possible.

The local MSP believes that proposals for one or two days a week from councils don’t go far enough and believes no pupil should be in school less than 50 per cent of the week in the short term, with a move back to as close to full-time schooling as soon as possible. 

 

 

ColinSmythMSPColin Smyth said: “As we approach what would have been the start of the traditional school holidays, I am urging parents to keep pressure on the Scottish Government to ensure the best back to school plans are rolled out across our region in August.

“Local councils are working around the clock to ensure children are able to restart their education in a safe way, but they have been seriously hampered by the Scottish Government.

“The fact that the government has not come up with a single extra penny to help our schools to restart safely is shocking.

“Education departments are now faced with the daunting task of providing extra cleaning and more pupil transport from their already squeezed budgets just to get children back in school two or three days a week.

“Either the Scottish Government needs to make its position known on social distancing and whether it intends to reduce the current two metre level to allow as many children back as after the holidays, explaining exactly how this will be achieved safely, or the government must give councils more resources to allow more children to be taught at any one time. 

“This could involve using other buildings to teach in with appropriate changes to the required specifications from the Government and bringing in retired, supply and recently graduated teachers and those who have just finished their probation, who ridiculously have found themselves out of work, to ensure we can get kids back in more than half the week sooner rather than later. 

“No child should be in school less than half of the week and even that should only be short term, with a return to as close to full time education within a matter of weeks.”