Jobs debate throws light on the task facing council

UNEMOPLOYED Teries account for 20 per cent of the region’s jobless, it has been revealed.

The worrying figure was announced during a debate at Tuesday’s night’s Teviot and Liddesdale Area Committee, where a turnout of around 20 members of the public heard assurances that Scottish Borders Council is striving to boost local employment. Vicky Davidson, SBC’s executive member for economic development, told the meeting that Hawick has 1.3 times the number of people claiming benefits compared to the rest of the Borders, and that a quarter of the town is of pensionable age compared to 19 per cent of the rest of the region.

But while outlining general measures SBC undertakes to attract businesses – from providing a suitable infrastructure of roads, broadband and premises, to EU and town funding – Councillor Davidson also revealed that they had helped 31 new start-up businesses in the past year. Other good news included 12 shop front and six business grants in Hawick, as well as ongoing involvement in Commerial Road, and the servicing of land in Burnfoot at a cost of £500,000.

And after concerns were raised about a lack of training to attract young people into the knitwear industry, economic development officer Richard Sweetnam agreed to consider inviting local mill directors to a meeting. “Assuming there is a demand for it, we can make that happen,” he said.

On the subject of empty buildings being allowed to rot, Mr Sweetnam told Councillor Zandra Elliot: “If we could get life back into some of those old buildings it would be fantastic, but it’s not that easy.” Councillor Davidson commented: “Only last week I tried to sell the old Glenmac building, but it was too large.”

Councillor Stuart Marshall was also given a guarantee that Galalaw was still on the council’s agenda as an asset.

But Councillor David Paterson commented: “Hearing that we have 20 per cent of the unemployed tells me Hawick should be a priority for action.”