MP calls for jobs summit

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Dumfries and Galloway Labour MP Russell Brown is seeking a cross party jobs summit, involving the council, Enterprise Company, the UK Government Department of Work and Pensions and Chambers of Commerce amid fears that the local economy is heading towards becoming an “economic basket case”, with falling wages and higher than average unemployment levels.

Russell Brown’s call comes as a result of a triple whammy the local MP says is hitting Dumfries and Galloway with a decrease in private sector employment, bucking the INCREASE nationally; further public sector job losses on the way; the lowest weekly wages in the UK, with the region’s average wages decreasing whilst the Scottish and UK average has increased.

Figures obtained by Mr Brown from the UK Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) in response to a recent Parliamentary Question from the MP reveal that the number of people employed in the private sector in Dumfries and Galloway has fell by 2000 over the nine quarters from June 2010. In contrast the rest of the UK saw an increase of 741,000 employed in the private sector, with Scotland increasing by 46,000.

The private sector jobs blow comes on top of recent high profile cuts in public sector jobs, with the council losing 1200 jobs alone since June 2007 and the council’s Chief Executive admitting in a report to the council recently that planned cuts in the council’s budget over the next two years will lead to more job losses.

ONS figures also show that Dumfries and Galloway is now the lowest paid region in Scotland , with average weekly earnings of just £400 (by workplace) compared to a Scottish weekly average of £497.60 and a UK weekly average of £507.60. The region has seen a fall in earnings since 2010 at a time the Scottish and UK average earnings have increased.

Russell Brown said: “Amidst all the national debate over whether the UK economy is or isn’t growing again, what is clear is there has been a seismic decline in the local economy over the past two years, which has seen unemployment rise above the rest of UK and average wages plummet.”

“The UK Government often argues that the loss of public sector jobs isn’t a problem, because up to a million private sector jobs have been created across the UK to replace them. However, when you analyse those figures closely you see that in Dumfries and Galloway the number of private sector jobs is actually falling, and this is on top of the huge cuts in jobs in the public sector such as the council.”

“Our region is losing well paid jobs in manufacturing on an almost weekly basis at the moment, and what jobs are being created tend to be lower paid, hence the fact that average wages are also on the decline locally.”

“That’s why I am seeking a Jobs Summit to bring together all political groups and local agencies to consider how best we can tackle Dumfries and Galloway’s triple whammy of fewer private and public sector jobs and plummeting wage levels. We need everyone working together if we are to make a case to the Scottish and UK Government to take notice of what is happening in Dumfries and Galloway. We have to ask serious questions about what is going wrong in our region when 2000 private sector jobs have been lost in Dumfries and Galloway at the same time as neighbouring Scottish borders region has created 3000 such jobs.”

“We are fast heading towards becoming a region where high unemployment, in particular among young people, is becoming the norm and where we hold the shameful record of being the poverty pay capital of the UK. Unless action is taken soon, the local economy could well become a real basket case.”