New chamber of commerce launched as rival to council

Dennis Goldie

Dennis Goldie

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A business support team primed for a takeover by Falkirk Council has decided to go it alone.

The local authority voted to bring in-house the Business Gateway service, which attracts money and jobs to the area.

Councillors decided its own staff within development services could do the work of current outside partners Falkirk for Business – and do it cheaper.

Staff at the private company have been given the opportunity to transfer over to the council, but this week it was revealed some of them are staying put and launching Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The decision has been “in response to demand from local businesses”, according to chief executive David Gardiner.

An e-mail sent to contacts stated: “We are all very excited about the new opportunity presented by the Chamber and are looking forward to continuing to work with local businesses and offering a range of new services.”

The move comes 10 years after Central Scotland Chamber of Commerce, once hailed as the national voice for local business, folded with huge debts.

It is understood sensitive negotiations between Falkirk for Business and the council are ongoing and both sides are hesitant about saying too much on future plans.

David Gardiner, of Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce said: “It’s early days but we can confirm that we will be formally launching Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce on October 1 in response to demand from local businesses.

“We have exciting growth plans with the private sector, starting with a consultation with businesses on September 12 where we will be seeking feedback on the kind of services and events that will add most value to local companies.”

The council’s head of econ­omic development, Douglas Duff, said: “We are proceeding with arrangements for the transfer of the service. We expect to announce details very soon and can reassure local businesses that they will continue to receive high level quality support when the new arrangements are in place.”​

Although he said Falkirk for Business had done a good job, Councillor Dennis Goldie, convener of economic development, said the in-house model would be even better.

He also claimed it has the potential to create £140,000 efficiency savings, as well as having £1.5 million to spend attracting jobs and economic growth to the area.

Mr Goldie said: “They have done a good job but I am confident we have people or can find people who can do that job. We are dealing with businesses at every level every day of the week.

“When talking to these businesses they are saying that it’s been ‘jobs for the boys’. But my main concern is that public money which has been handed over has to come back and we will ensure that it is used to benefit other small businesses.”

The decision to bring the service in-house was not supported by the SNP, who warned it was a “dangerous move” which would affect continuity and business confidence.