Nith Ward Labour Councillors Colin Smyth and John Martin have slammed a council Shop Front Improvement Initiative for discriminating against shop owners in Dumfries.
The local Councillors are angry that the Tory SNP coalition refused to back a Labour move to expand the £400,000 scheme to include more properties in the regional capital. Labour proposed an extra £100,000 be put into the scheme if need be to ensure Dumfries could also be covered, without taking away from any other town or village. However, the scheme is targeted at "small" towns, with Dumfries restricted to just two properties in certain streets away from the main shopping centres.
Labour warned that the restrictions mean that two years after the funding was originally announced for the scheme take up has been so poor and the scheme was in danger of being a flop. The council have now been forced to try to publicise the scheme more due to the low take up.
Councillor Colin Smyth said, "Labour backed the introduction of this scheme which could make a real difference to town centres but we wanted it to include all the regions towns and villages. That's why we suggested the funding be increased to ensure that Dumfries didn't miss out but if there was a big demand from other places, there was plenty of funding available to be spread across the region. Sadly all the Tory SNP coalition agreed to was that no more than two properties in Dumfries could be included and these must be in streets within the Housing Renewal area. But this excludes all the major shopping areas in Dumfries such as the High Street. Tory and SNP councillors must be the only people who think that shops in Dumfries town centre don't need any improvements , which shows just how out of touch they are with local people. Their discrimination against our regional capital is shocking. It is little wonder so many people at angry at the way the council are sitting back leaving the town centre to decline".
Fellow Nith Ward Councillor John Martin said, "This scheme was agreed nearly two years ago, yet so far only a couple of shops have expressed any interest and the council are now desperately scrambling around trying to promote the scheme. The criteria is so restrictive that take up will remain low unless the council has a rethink. Sadly the decision by Tory and SNP councillors to discriminate against Dumfries means they would rather the money sat in the council's bank account than be invested in improving Dumfries town centre".