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Council should have final say on £20m spending

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Council should have final say on £20m spending

AN SNP councillor this week welcomed a huge investment in Dumfries from the UK Tory Government – but insisted that Dumfries and Galloway Council should have complete control over how the money is spent.

Katie Hagmann, who represents Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, pictured, is adamant that councillors and council officials should have the final on how the £20m cash injection from Westminster should be used.

Meanwhile, Annandale South Councillor Sean Marshall is enthusiastic about how the money could advance housing investment plans in Dumfries, but is keen to hear if any conditions have been placed on how it is invested.

Discussions have already begun between Dumfries and Galloway Council officers and Westminster officials after a £20m windfall was confirmed two months ago.

Speaking at the economy and resources committee on Tuesday, Councillor Hagmann said: “I’m wondering whether we need to be a little bit more proactive, with the chair writing and laying out what our expectations would be regarding this money.

“There’s cross-party agreement through COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) that all funding should be coming to local authorities for those within the local authority to decide how that money should be spent – rather than dictated to in almost a ring-fenced manner.”

She added: “While we absolutely welcome any additional funding into the local authority, it should really be for the local authority and ourselves as elected members to decide how that money is best spent.”

Annandale South Councillor Sean Marshall said: “This will advance the housing plans for key workers and sheltered care workers.

“In relation to the Dumfries town centre masterplan, I do think that this UK Government initiative for Scottish towns needs a bit more clarity on the terms and guidance.

“But it has the potential to develop a masterplan not only for Dumfries town centre, but Dumfries as a whole.

“I don’t know when we’ll receive further information from the UK Government, but at the moment I’m quite content that it could be an ideal delivery vehicle to take things forward.”

Jamie Little, the council’s strategic housing and regeneration team leader, replied: “In terms of the timeline for additional information, we don’t have specific dates as it stands.

“We have met with UK Government officials to discuss the additional requirements that are needed.”

Each town receiving funding from the UK Government will have a board to bring together community leaders, employers and local authorities to deliver the plan and put it to local people for consultation.

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