Mike Vickers' Blog

September 30, 2010

LBA Question Time 2010

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association — derryvickers @ 2:57 pm

The Linlithgow Business Association held its annual question time on 29th September 2010 with the theme ‘Tough Choices’.  The title came from a consultative document issued by West Lothian Council on how  best to meet its target reduction in revenue from £380m to £320m by 2013.

Members of the panel were:

Cllr Peter Johnston, Leader of West Lothian Council,

Lesley Riddoch, Feisty Productions, BBC producer and presenter,

Jim Lindsay, General Manager, Airdrie Savings Bank,

Stephen Sweeney, FD, Campbells Prime Meats.

The Panel was chaired by Simon Walton, Specialists in cutting your bills at home and work.

The questions ranged across the whole gamut of cuts and what we could do about it.  A few of the ideas and comments from the meeting:

  • PJ considered that self help groups are better organised and more effective in  Linlithgow but this could be due to the fact that its population is more affluent
  • The Linlithgow Town Centre Management Groups is fuelling ideas for the town.  It is being taken as an example to other groups throughout the West Lothian Region
  • It would be suicide to re-establish Lothians Region at this time; nevertheless the current regions are now working together to see what activities are common and where savings may be made.  The fire services are one such
  • Nevertheless LR considered that the regions are presently neither big enough nor small enough.  Local should be local
  • Contractual procedures are too cumbersome and too open to all.  At a certain size they need to open to the whole EU.  Agreed that while Local is contractually not acceptable, “fresh” and “low mileage” could achieve the same effect
  • The Coalition’s ‘Big Society’ needed to be viewed with caution: it looks more like passing costs to the Social Sector.  It was often forgotten that the Social Enterprises are also businesses – its just that their ‘profits’ are distributed differently
  • There are other ways that small companies might survive eg Pay taxes through the provision of services.
  • So often businesses come up with novel ideas but their ideas fall on stony ground; and after a couple of different attempts they just give up: being ignored is worse than never having tried.  In this respect small isolated communities may fare better as they are on their own and the bureaucracy is too far away to stop them, LR instanced Eigg
  • Stewart Liddle on behalf of Linlithgow Union Canal Society  emphasised that their society provides a whole range of canal based activities with little external support
  • LR considers that Scotland falls behind England – Scotland is more conservative.  Scotland believes it is radical but it is not. She also considers Scotland is Skill Rich but Cash Poor
  • JL considered that it would not be feasible for Linlithgow to set up its own ‘Narrow Bank’ eg as the Airdrie Bank but considered creating a Credit Union would be valuable.  SS related his favourable experience of Credit Unions in Canada and PJ said that ones have been successfully set up in Livingston and Bathgate.  Development Trusts could be another way to raise and provide cash.
  • The point was made that Falkirk has a strong Business Panel where Public / Private Partnership looked to flourish; this was supported by SS where the Falkirk Council had been very supportive for Campbells Meats to take over the abandoned Abattoir following their fire in Broxburn. 
  • PJ emphasised the desire  of West Lothian Council to work with the private sector

The meeting finished with a rousing cheer and members and friends went away with lots to think about not least, I suggest, on how the many very active groups in the Town can pool their efforts for the common good.

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September 12, 2010

The LBA – where we go from here

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association — derryvickers @ 9:23 am

If the LBA is to continue it needs to engage its members and preferably engage them so much that they will want to participate in its activities.

Below I have sketched out a Mind Map of what I see we do and what are our strengths and weaknesses:  Green for Strengths and Red for Weaknesses.  Orange of course is our Opportunities.

Priorities are as I see them.  

I welcome your comments  on what you expect from the LBA.  Please take a few minutes NOW to let us know.

September 1, 2010

Linlithgow – Community Development

Filed under: Linlithgow Business Association, Linlithgow Climate Change — derryvickers @ 9:34 pm

Financing a sustainable future for the town

The Town Centre Management Group hosted a presentation by Alan Caldwell, a consultant in community planning, regeneration and low carbon futures.  The meeting was well attended by members of the TCMG, the Climate Challenge Group, the LBA and a number of consultants.

Alan’s premise was that towns cannot expect funding for community development of any sort from the usual sources such as the Local Councils or even Central Government.

If Towns have projects they wish to pursue it is now a DIY exercise.  Towns must set up a formal organisation through which to do so.  Alan instances such a body as a Community Development Organisation (CDO). 

Alan sees that such CDOs will only succeed if they include five ‘ingredients’.  They are:

  1. Finance – they must have a good source of finance.  In the discussion Finance could take the form of a good Asset base which is income generating
  2. Organisation – this needs to have a legal and well understood and respected structure.  It needs to be manned by professionally qualified members.  These may be unpaid volunteers – Comrie was only one paid director, Alan.
  3. Planning – there needs to be a Strategic plan.  This is a must if finance is to be raised commercially.  Too often local groups are driven by emotionally charged individuals who are good at the Vision and at the day to day running of the group but miss out the Strategic Plan.
  4. Community involvement – a CDO needs to take the whole community with it.  Aspires was mentioned here.  Community involvement is likely to be through a number of working groups (I took this not necessarily the many informal groups that many towns have already)
  5. Partners – a CDO should establish a number of partnerships with private investors.   

Projects that Alan suggested were Renewable Energy and Land Projects.

Comments from the ‘jury’ included :

  • The basis of finance needs to be different in the 21st century than in previous ones.  Examples could be landowners making land available free provided that they received a revenue stream.  Supermarkets giving shares in lieu of pension provision.  Debt is to be avoided
  • The difficulty of persuading existing groups to release control and ownership in favour of an embracing CDO
  • Are OSCAR and the Inland Revenue fully bought into the CDO business approach.  Alan said Yes
  • Clarendon House and the Venal are two possible land development projects already identified by the Civic Trust.

 

Hazel Hay will produce formal notes but my first impressions are:

  1. Apart from the projects identified by the Civic Trust there are no obvious large projects in Linlithgow.  Climate Challenge would say that reducing carbon is one but this is a concept rather than a project per se.  Wind generation has been mentioned but all sites have been dismissed so far as unsuitable.  A community bank has been proposed and this would be valuable if a number of significant assets were to be acquired but we are back to the lack of large projects to provide the base
  2. A CDO needs to support the whole community but Linlithgow is dominated by very active specialist groups who are unlikely to surrender their sovereignty readily.  This has been amply demonstrated by Linlithgow Aspires.
  3. Emphasis at this stage is too much on low carbon.  Sustainable commercial business has a place too.

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