SNP welcome progress on Falkirk pension fund investment in social housing

The Investment Committee at Falkirk Council, which safeguards the £1 billion Falkirk Council Pension Fund, has backed a call by Grangemouth SNP Councillor Angus MacDonald to investigate investment in badly needed social housing as an income stream for the pension fund.

At a Special Full Council meeting held in June Councillor MacDonald called on the Council to look at investment by the Falkirk Council Pension Fund into social housing. Councillor MacDonald argued that such an investment, while providing much needed housing would also provide the Falkirk Council Pension Fund with a guaranteed, index linked investment.

The Investment Committee had previously decided to invest 3% of its ‘Alternative’ section of the Strategic Asset Allocation fund in infrastructure projects, and Councillor MacDonald argued that social housing would be an ideal vehicle for capital investment

Members of the Investment Committee, of which Councillor MacDonald is a member, discussed the proposal in detail at its most recent meeting held on Thursday. Members were informed by officers and advisers that the Pension Fund does have the capacity to invest in social housing within Forth Valley.

Council finance officers have now been instructed to “further explore suitable market funds and the potential to incorporate a specific Forth Valley social housing project”. Informal talks have already taken place with local registered social landlords however the initiative is still at a very early stage.

The Scottish Government is also actively investigating ways in which pension funds can be used to accelerate the building of social housing throughout Scotland.

Welcoming progress, Councillor MacDonald said:

“I am extremely pleased that my initiative is being progressed by our finance officers. We badly need more social housing in Falkirk district, and indeed the wider Forth Valley. This initiative ticks all the boxes, allowing construction of social housing and the resultant construction jobs it would bring, while providing the Falkirk Pension Fund with a guaranteed index-linked investment. Affordable housing is a low risk, ethical investment so in effect, everyone’s happy!”

“While the SNP Government has provided grants to Falkirk Council to allow the construction of 130 flats in the district, there are around 8,000 applicants on the Council’s housing waiting list, so 20 new flats per year are not going to make up for the properties sold under the ‘Right to Buy’ legislation. This initiative would allow social landlords to construct properties when they are currently finding difficulty in securing funding from traditional sources such as our banks.

“I look forward to further reports coming to the Investment and Housing & Social Care Committees in the near future, once officers have explored the proposal and options in more detail."

The SNP’s Housing spokesperson, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn also gave her backing to the initiative, saying:

“I very much welcome this initiative and also the Scottish Government’s recent statement on the use of local government pension trusts to invest in social housing. Local authorities across Scotland are under considerable pressure to meet the Government target for homelessness by 2012 and this initiative will go a long way to helping registered social landlords provide modern properties for rent.

“The accelerated funding from the Scottish Government has allowed Falkirk to start to meet the considerable housing demand however that is likely to now come to an end thanks to the new Tory Liberal Government. With a significant cut expected in the Scottish block grant received from London it is essential that we find alternative ways to help fund social housing to enable building programmes to continue.

“Housing Associations have a major role in delivering social housing and this is an ideal way of supporting our housing partners to deliver good quality homes.

Falkirk District's small firms save thousands under the SNP

Angus MacDonald welcomes SNP's commitment to small firms

New figures on the Small Business Bonus show the SNP’s focus on small businesses as being essential to Scottish growth has saved thousands of pounds for firms in Falkirk district in the first two years of the scheme.

With figures for the bonus on 2010-11 still to come in, Falkirk district’s small businesses have saved an average of £2801 each during the recession as a result of the SNP’s small business bonus.

The figures were released by Finance Minister John Swinney in response to a Parliamentary question

Welcoming the figures the SNP’s Economic Development spokesperson at Falkirk Council and SNP Candidate for Falkirk East Councillor Angus MacDonald said:

“This is excellent news for businesses in Falkirk East.

“In 2007 the SNP recognised that Scotland’s small businesses had been neglected for too long.  Small and medium sized firms are a vital part of Scotland’s economy and we must work together to support them.

“The small business bonus has helped keep corner shops, town centre shops and small manufacturing firms open during the recession and now has a key role to play in ensuring Scotland recovers strongly.

“While other parties argued against the bonus the SNP is well aware of the importance small businesses play in communities, as employers and in creating growth in our economy. Unfortunately Cathy Peattie, Falkirk East's Labour MSP has continually opposed the Small Business Bonus and has voted against it at every opportunity. I would therefore challenge her to explain exactly what Labour would have done to help these firms through this difficult period caused by Labour's recesssion. In truth, Labour have no answers and are simply carping from the sidelines and attacking what has been to date an extremely successful intitiaitve. My fear is that Labour would abolish the Small Business Bonus if they were returned to power.

“Businesses in Falkirk district have saved an average of £2,801 in the first two years of the scheme with another year’s bonus available this year.

"While there are serious budget cuts heading to Scotland from Westminster it is imperative that the Small Business Bonus scheme is sustained. I know from speaking to many recipients of the Small Business Bonus in Falkirk East that it has made a tremendous impact at a difficult time for retailers and manufacturers.

“The Small Business Bonus is one of the few direct financial measures the Scottish Government can take within its current powers to help boost our economy.  It is a sign of what more could be done to support Scotland’s economy and offer an alternative to the dismal decade of cuts ahead if the Scottish Parliament had the full responsibilities of financial independence.”

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Kemfine UK has been sold to Munich-based Aurelius AG

Kemfine UK has been sold to Munich-based Aurelius AG for an undisclosed sum.

The Grangemouth business, part of the Finnish-based KemFine Group, produces chemicals in the agrochemical and pharmaceutical sectors.

The UK arm had sales of £41million in 2009 and employs around 200 people at Grangemouth.

Welcoming the announcement the SNP’s candidate at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election, Grangemouth Councillor Angus MacDonald said:

“The acquisition of Kemfine by German firm Aurelius is extremely welcome news for Grangemouth in the current economic climate and helps secure the long-term prospects for the Grangemouth plant.

“Aurelius has a good track record in committing to long-term projects in previous acquisitions, which bodes well for the future of the Grangemouth plant and will be of great comfort to the 200 employees at the Grangemouth plant.”

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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