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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.

 

McALPINE WELCOMES EXTRA £2.812M FOR DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY COUNCIL IN BUDGET DEAL

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed an agreement to pass the Scottish Government budget that will see Dumfries and Galloway receive an additional £2.812m in the next year.

The amended budget will also see the Scottish Government take the radical step of introducing free bus travel for those aged 18 and under from January 2021.

Police will benefit from a total uplift of £60 million in the next financial year, with £13m of additional investment in frontline services and a further £5m of additional capital investment, on top of the £42m already committed.

Joan McAlpine MSPCommenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“This SNP budget invests a record £15bn in health and care services, delivers Scotland’s unique child payment to lift our youngest out of poverty and supports Scotland’s world-leading efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

“The Scottish Government had already backed Police Scotland with a budget increase of £42m.  That will now increase that support to £60m overall with £50m of investment for frontline services.

“Dumfries and Galloway will benefit from our share of an extra £95m for local government – with an extra £2.812m of investment.

“We have made significant investments to tackle the climate crisis, with funding for a green deal, low carbon travel and £1.8bn of low emission infrastructure.

“The introduction of free bus travel for those aged 18 and under will make an enormous difference to young people – and alongside the £500 million bus infrastructure fund will help deliver a step change in the use of public transport.

“This budget is a good deal for Dumfries and Galloway and a good deal for Scotland – and I’m delighted it is now set to receive the support of the Scottish Parliament.

“In light of the Scottish Government’s willingness to compromise on issues identified by all parties, I hope every party can get behind the budget.”

“Game on” for Galloway’s National Par

With the recent Holyrood vote in favour of creating more National Parks in Scotland and the Glover Review of National Parks in England and Wales exposing a groundswell of support for new and bigger Parks there, you would think it would be full steam ahead for Galloway’s National Park plans. After all, the Galloway National Park Association (GNPA) has met the challenges set by the Scottish Government in 2017: namely support from the community and local councils and evidence of economic benefits. So a recent letter from Mairi Gougeon (Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment) responding to the GNPA’s case for proceeding was disappointing.

The Minister recognised the area’s socio-economic needs but proposed a “wait and see” approach on the basis that investment in the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere might all be expected to deliver improvement and should be allowed to bed in.

Speaking after Trustees met to consider their response, Dame Barbara Kelly of GNPA commented

“We don’t believe Galloway should have to wait.

National Parks are not created overnight and we need to start the process now if we are to secure a brighter future for our rural communities and their young people.

Although SoSEA and the Borderlands Deal should help to improve our economic prospects we maintain that a National Park would add to their capacity to do so, particularly in the west of the region where rural deprivation is increasing and our many small to medium businesses continue to struggle.”

The GNPA supports the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, (whose Charter it signed in 2017), and believes its aims are consistent with and complement those of a National Park. However, the fact remains that the designation lacks the power of the National Park brand to draw in visitors and investment and the legal standing to enable it to develop and deliver a shared vision for Galloway’s future.*

 

Lisa Hooper, fellow Trustee added

“Scotland’s record in creating National Parks is a shameful one. Though widely acknowledged to have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world it has managed to designate only two Parks (the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs), and the last of those was created nearly 20 years ago.This leaves our cherished landscapes vulnerable to the piecemeal erosion of their natural and cultural heritage and reduces the ability of our communities to benefit from them economically.

Now recognised as one of the poorest parts of Scotland, our region faces uncertainties over Brexit and challenges to farming and land use as the world begins to address climate change.”

Trustee Sandra McDowall concluded

“We believe that a National Park would provide the forum to chart a new course for the area’s future. It would not be a faceless quango but a local body making local decisions. And importantly we believe it would be so successful that it would more than pay for itself. National Parks have a proven track record for growing rural communities; local politicians of all parties are fully behind this proposal; what are we waiting for?”

To join us and support our work go to:

https://www.gallowaynationalpark.org/join-us

*The proposed Park area includes parts of South and East Ayrshir

DGHP agrees £35m RBS deal to support major homes investment

Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership (DGHP) has followed up on a £114 million investment deal with M&G Investments with the announcement of £35m of private investment to support a programme of house building and improvements.

The housing association has agreed a 10-year revolving credit facility provided by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

DGHP will use the new debt financing to support the development of up to 1,000 new homes for affordable rent over the next five years and to carry out improvements to existing homes. Next year alone improvement plans include £16.5m of investment in tenants’ homes including new boilers, new kitchens, doors and windows.

It comes as DGHP revealed plans to refinance its existing bank debt after securing a £114m financing deal with M&G Investments last week. The deal represented M&G’s largest investment in the Scottish social housing sector.

DGHP, which owns 10,300 homes, became part of housing, care and property-management group Wheatley Group in December after its tenants voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move.

 

DGHP_-_Bill-Robertson.jpg

Bill Robertson, chair of DGHP, said: “We are already beginning to see the benefits of joining Wheatley Group with plans progressing to start work on hundreds of new homes across our communities, accelerate improvements to our existing homes and introduce new and improved services.

“This credit facility with RBS is a vital part of enabling us to deliver for our communities while keeping rents affordable.”

Wheatley Group chairman, Alastair MacNish, said: “The Royal Bank of Scotland has been a key funding partner of our group for many years and this latest deal is a further vote of confidence in Wheatley and our newest partner DGHP.

“The performance, and the combined size and scale, of all the partner organisations in Wheatley continues to allow us to raise funding at highly competitive rates and make a major contribution to addressing the shortage of affordable housing in Scotland.”

Alan Newlands, associate director, housing finance, real estate finance for Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “This is a crucial and exciting project for Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership and Wheatley Housing Group and one which will make a significant and positive impact for people, communities and towns across the Dumfries and Galloway region.

“Royal Bank of Scotland is delighted to have worked with Wheatley and other partners to help deliver the framework and support to help new build development and investment in existing homes throughout the south west of Scotland.

“This investment shows a long-term commitment to the area and as a bank we are pleased once again to be able to help facilitate this and support the positive work Wheatley Housing Group undertakes throughout Scotland.”

&G Council budget and council tax 2020/21

Dumfries and Galloway Council met Thursday February 27th 2020 to consider budget proposals and set the associated council tax level for financial year 2020/21.

Under the Local Government [Scotland] Act 1973 and the Local Government Finance Act 1992, a local authority must set its council tax before 11 March in the preceding financial year. A council is required to set council tax based on an overall balanced budget for the financial year.

The Council agreed to increase council tax by 4.84% [3% + inflation].

Elaine Murray Council Leader 2017    Council Leader Elaine Murray said: “Today, we found ourselves in unusual circumstances with an indicative Scottish budget for 2020/21 but without knowing what our revenue and capital allocations from the Scottish Government will be. Cuts and savings agreed earlier in the current financial year, mean that we face a funding gap of around £5.2m. We are, however, expecting our revenue funding from the Scottish Government to increase by around £2.8m. We’ll set our full budget next month and I am proud to say that our administration won’t be cutting the education budget or increasing the pupil:teacher ratio; won’t be making cuts to the financial inclusion team; and won’t be cutting the roads and winter maintenance budgets.”

 rob davidson   Depute Leader Rob Davidson said: “Today, we were arguably in a better position than we have been for many years, in which we had to deliver a total of £106m in savings. I very much welcome our council agreeing to increase council tax to enable us to preserve vital council services. I’m now looking forward to presenting our full budget in March, which will protect education, financial inclusion, and significant investment in our roads.”

EASTERBROOK HALL ACHIEVE GOLD STANDARD AND IS SHORTLISTED IN NATIONAL BEST BAR NONE AWARDS 2020

Easterbrook Hall at The Crichton has this week received the Gold Standard Regional Award at the Dumfries & Galloway Best Bar None Local Awards ceremony.  As well as hosting the event in Easterbrook Hall and accepting their award, the team also received news of their success in the shortlisting phase of the National Best Bar None Awards, which will take place at Dunblane Hydro on Thursday 19th March, 2020.

After completing an assessment process with a Best Bar None assessor, Easterbrook Hall achieved the Gold Standard Award, which demonstrates the commitment of their management team when it comes to ensuring the safety of their staff and customers.

There was more good news for the team, as Easterbrook Hall also received news of their success in the National awards process.  Easterbrook Hall has also been shortlisted in the Specialist Entertainment Venue category of the National Best Bar None Awards in 2020 and will now compete with other venues throughout Scotland in their efforts to bring the award home to Dumfries & Galloway.

Best Bar None is administered nationally by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre and is supported and sponsored by leading members of the drinks industry to promote social responsibility.  Best Bar None work with entertainment venues throughout Scotland to reduce crime, improve safety, reward excellence and raise standards in licensed premises. Their local and national awards provide them with a platform to reward excellence in the industry.

Fiona Rands, Venue Manager at Easterbrook Hall said: “We take our social responsibilities as a licensed venue very seriously at Easterbrook Hall and so we are delighted to have received the Gold Standard Award from Best Bar None and to be recognised nationally for our efforts in the Specialist Entertainment Venue category too. We now look forward to attending the national awards ceremony in March.”

 

Best Bar None at Easterbrook Hall