Coalition pledges job for region

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The new Labour SNP coalition on Dumfries and Galloway Council says it has pledged to support the creation of 400 new job opportunities for local businesses.

The £1.5 million proposals over the next three years are contained within ‘building the local economy’, the new coalition’s draft council budget published this week.

Councillors also claim proposals include plans to protect the most vulnerable by boosting the budget of the council’s social work department by £1.9 million to pay for increased demand for services due to an ageing population including an additional £512,000 each year over the next three years to improve home care. In return for the extra support, home care providers will need to commit to improving care and paying their staff at least the living wage, boosting the pay of 500 low paid workers.

In the week that International Ice Hockey took the region by storm, a total of £350,000 has also been set aside to support more events in the region as part of a new Major Festivals and Events Strategy and to ensure the region benefits from a Commonwealth games legacy.

The Labour SNP coalition have also reiterated the council’s policy of no compulsory redundancies. The draft budget includes £254,000 of flexibility which could be used for additional spending or to reduce savings options, depending on the outcome of a planned public consultation.

Commenting on the draft budget proposals, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Ronnie Nicholson said: “Our region faces a number of challenges. Our local economy is still in a deeply perilous place with unemployment, particularly amongst young people consistently above the national average and we have the shocking record as lowest paid region in Scotland. Building the local economy is the new Labour SNP coalition’s number one priority. That’s why in our draft budget we have set out plans to invest £1.5 m over the next three years to create 400 job opportunities for young people and the long term unemployed. Our budget will also deliver the Living Wage for 500 of the lowest paid workers in the private and third sector through our contracting process, building on the introduction of the Living Wage for the Council’s own staff. Coupled with increased funding for social work, it shows this new coalition are determined to protect the most vulnerable in our community, providing the care local people need and deserve.”

Deputy Leader Brian Collins said, “In developing our budget, we knew we faced a huge challenge as the UK Government’s spending cuts continue relentlessly. We have already had to find £30 m of savings over the past three years and face a further £27 m of cuts over the next three years. We have no control over these cuts in funding, but we are determined to work with local people to minimise the impact on their services. We believe we have got the balance right by making the savings but also focusing more investment in our key priorities to build the economy and protect the most vulnerable. However, we now want to hear what the public think and that’s why this is only a draft budget. We are determined to lead an inclusive council and that’s why we are committed to consulting with our local communities to put them at the heart of our decision making.”