Saturday, 26 April 2014
Economic growth set to accelerate in 2014
Scotland’s recovery is set to consolidate further in 2014 following the fastest year of economic growth since before the recession in 2007, with the pace of expansion expected to accelerate this year.
[Pictured: Cabinet Secretary for Finance
and Sustainable Growth John Swinney.]
The Scottish Government’s Chief Economist published the State of the Economy report today. Dr Gary Gillespie’s report highlights:
• Scotland’s economy grew 1.6 per cent during 2013, the first calendar year since 2007 with four quarters of growth. Economic output remains on track to surpass its pre-recession peak during the first half of 2014.
• Most survey evidence points to growing confidence across the majority of sectors in Scotland, and the outlook in key trading partners has improved over the last year.
• The improving picture has been most strongly evident in the aggregate labour market indicators, with employment rising over the year and unemployment falling. Employment is now back above pre-recession levels and at its highest level on record in Scotland.
• However, it is important to put these trends in context. Scotland entered recession over 5 years ago (22 quarters) and the effects of the crisis will continue to have an impact for some time to come.
• Nevertheless, with the economy recording its fastest year of growth in five years in 2013 and forecasters expecting the pace to accelerate further in 2014, future prospects for the economy remain optimistic.
Commenting on the report, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said: “I welcome the Chief Economist’s report, which shows that economic recovery is progressing and consolidating and that is set to continue throughout 2014 – good news for business and good news for hard working people across the country.
“This latest snapshot presents a picture of strengthening recovery and growing optimism highlighted in recent survey data.
“We have turned a corner but significant challenges still remain as businesses continue to respond to changing market conditions and a challenging external environment, particularly in our key export market of Europe.
“This report also highlights the need to ensure a broad based recovery and the potential for increased business investment and productivity growth to help the economy recover further.
“I particularly welcome the outlook for the labour market, reflecting the strong performance over the last year. Whilst we continue to look at what more can be done to boost employment our policy of investing in infrastructure to boost the economy and our focus on tackling youth unemployment has delivered employment levels at a record high.”
The latest State of the Economy report is available CLICK HERE.
Friday, 25 April 2014
A detailed action plan and timeline for further improvement work were approved by South Ayrshire Council this week as members considered their response to the Audit Scotland/Accounts Commission report published earlier this year.
The report – which raised no concerns about how the Council delivers services or the quality of those services – set out six improvement recommendations for the Council:
• Fully implement the previously agreed recommendations to set improvement objectives as part of the Council Plan and introduce regular reporting against these.
• Ensure that the Council Plan and service and improvement plans are in place for the start of the 2014/15 financial year, and effectively communicated to all staff.
• Ensure that all staff have Performance and Development Reviews, including clear forward objectives reflecting the new corporate and service plans.
• Ensure corporate approaches agreed at CMT, such as the roll out of "How Good Is Our Council?", are consistently implemented across the council.
• Introduce regular and timely performance reporting that has a greater focus on outcomes and leads to improvement action being taken where required.
• Ensure the review of scrutiny arrangements addresses the weaknesses in the current arrangements and that improvements are made with greater urgency.
At this week’s meeting, Councillors approved their response to the recommendations and findings within the report, agreed the detailed actions being taken to address these and approved the creation of a member/officer working group.
Membership of the group will comprise Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of the Council (pictured above); Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council; Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of the SNP Group; Councillor Brian Connolly, Independent Councillor; and senior officers.
A new Corporate Management Team charter and corporate standards will also be introduced and reinforced throughout the Council
Chief Executive Eileen Howat (pictured above) said: “We’re committed to being the best Council we can possibly be and delivering best value for the people of South Ayrshire.
“The improvement work underway will ensure we have the right processes and performance monitoring in place and continue to provide the services and facilities our communities deserve.
“Whether it’s participating in the performance and development review process, reviewing scrutiny arrangements, amending the management structure to reflect recent changes to how we work, or contributing to a positive organisational culture, every elected member and every single employee has an important role to play in helping ensure we progress and improve as an organisation.
“By doing this, we will improve and we will continue to deliver high quality services for our people and communities, who are at the heart of all we do.”
Full details of the action plan, timelines and the Council’s response to the audit report can be found HERE
South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.
RICS UK Construction Market Survey, Q1 2014
The private housing sector is driving a construction industry revival in Scotland, although skills shortages threaten the pace of recovery, according to the latest RICS Construction Market Survey for Q1 2014.
The speed at which confidence is returning to the market is revealed by the highest report in workloads since the 2007 (net balance 31 percent), with improvement being driven by the private sector and, in particular, the commercial housing sector.
However, the ‘feel good’ factor is being tempered by a further increase in reported skills shortages across many trades and in most parts of the country. In Scotland, 43 percent of respondents believe there are insufficient numbers of Quantity Surveyors currently available to meet rising supply demands for these skilled workers. This is teamed with a net balance of 35 percent reporting a shortage of general construction professionals.
Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland, commented: “What we are seeing as the recovery takes shape is that the impact of skills shortages in parts of the country where companies failed to invest in attracting new talent or in the training of existing employees at the height of the economic downturn. Now that the upturn in workloads is broadening out across Scotland, the industry must ensure it has the capability to capitalise on these opportunities.”
Despite this, the continuing recovery in the sector will see further job gains, with 41 percent of respondents forecasting growth in construction employment during the next 12 months.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
By: Iain Ferguson
JOHNNIE Delta Racing captured the Owners Championship for the 2013-2014 jumps season at Ayr Racecourse by a point from Mrs S Russell and Mr M Russell in a dramatic finish to the season on Saturday.
It was a superb achievement for the Johnnie Delta team, as they also won the 2013 Flat Owners title at the track, and all their points in the jumps title chase were earned by one horse – Too Cool To Fool (pictured above) who won the Porcelanosa Scotland Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase on Friday.
That left the Russells needing their horse Final Assault to win the opening race on Friday to tie the title but it could only finish second to Silsol.
The leading trainer award was won by Lucinda Russell with Jim Goldie runner up while in the Jockeys title Brian Hughes edged out Brian Harding by three points.
Ayr’s next meeting is the freebets.co.uk Raceday on Sunday 28 April, the first flat meeting of the year with the opening race at 2.00pm.
START OF THE FLAT
The freebets.co.uk Raceday launches the 2014 flat season at Ayr Racecourse on Sunday with 127 horses entered for the seven races.
All the leading Scottish stables will be represented, with Keith Dalgleish, Jim Goldie, Linda Perratt, Ian Semple and Alistair Whillans all likely to have runners.
And Yorkshire based handlers David O’Meara and Mark Johnston also hold entries on what should turn out to be a highly competitive card.
The feature race is the Free Bets At freebets.co.uk Handicap over a mile and O’Meara could be represented here with Nurpur in the hands of Irvine born jockey Danny Tudhope. Course winner Dubai Dynamo from the Ruth Carr yard is another interesting contender.
Among the leading jockeys in action should be the aforementioned Danny Tudhope, champion apprentice Jason Hart, PJ McDonald, Tom Eaves, Paul Mulrennan and Graham Lee.
Gates open at 12 noon with the first race at 2.00pm.
For more information call 01292 264179 or go online www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk
For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292 294972 or 07795 565691.
Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.