February 2019

Council right not to use tax options

I welcome Dumfries and Galloway Council's sensible approach to the SNP Scottish Government's ill-thought-out workplace parking and tourist taxes.

Leader Cllr Elaine Murray states they will not use the new tax raising powers delegated to councils through the SNP's budget voting pact with Green MSPs.

The council rightly point out that the taxes would 'not be appropriate for our rural area' and, with public transport limited, many in my constituency have no option but to use their car for work.

The scheme would particularly impact on small firms and low-paid workers while also increasing on-street parking, hindering attempts to regenerate our town centres.

Meanwhile, a tourism tax would also have disadvantaged our region as neighbouring Cumbria and the Lake District do not impose a visitor levy.

I will keep an eye on both these 'powers' in case in future they appear on the local agenda.


Midsteeple team looks to future

I was disappointed for the Dumfries Midsteeple Quarter team when their attempt to acquire the long-disused buildings at 113 to 119 High Street proved unsuccessful when the premises were auctioned at short notice by the owners, a pension fund. 

The local volunteers responded swiftly raising more than £23,000 in a matter of days in a crowdfunding bid as part of efforts to acquire the premises they had planned to regenerate, supported by the Scottish Land Fund.

With the buildings, only yards from the historic Midsteeple, being sold in London to a telephone bidder for £142,000 the community-based group's immediate plans were dashed.

However, the Midsteeple Quarter are pushing ahead with other initiatives and I share their hope that the buyer, having invested such a large sum, will enhance Dumfries by making good use of their newly acquired asset.


Cash concerns

A reduction in cash machines in recent years has caused inconvenience and concern for some of my constituents.

Unfortunately, bank branch closures often go hand in hand with the loss of the associated dispenser and this has a disproportionate effect in rural areas.

Whilst banking habits change, I believe it is essential to retain a reliable nationwide cash network.

I am writing to the UK Treasury seeking reassurance that safeguards are in place to ensure continued cash dispenser access, particularly in smaller communities.