Falkirk Stats don’t give us a true picture

Gloomy figures claiming Falkirk is one of the biggest losers from the economic recession have come under fire.

A report from the Bank of Scotland suggests that the area has fared worse than the majority of other parts of the country during the downturn.

But the economists who produced the research have been criticised for using two different sets of figures to carry out the comparison between the district’s position three years ago and today.

Responding to the bank’s analysis, Councillor Adrian Mahoney, who heads the council’s economic strategy and development committee, said: “We’re not comparing like with like and I’d use a bit of caution when looking at these two sets of statistics.”

The figures show that, in the period from 1998-2008, Falkirk had one of the highest growing economic activities per head of population – up 69 per cent. This compared to the Scottish average of 59 per cent.

But the report then shows the area has the second biggest contraction in economic activity with a 2.7 per cent rise in people claiming unemployment benefits between April 2008 and April 2011.

However, council economic officials point out that current claimants may live locally but be commuters and have lost jobs outside Falkirk.

Mr Mahoney added: “We know the recession is hitting local companies and times are tough for many businesses out there.

“Areas with high levels of manufacturing activity – as we have – have been hard hit by the recession. But we’re trying hard to help firms where we can.

“The council, through FalkirkforBusiness, The Business Panel, town centre management and our in-house economic development team, is working to support businesses.”

He highlighted areas where Falkirk has been performing well, including being named the most enterprising place in Scotland for 2010.

The councillor said last month Camelon-based bus builders Alexander Dennis had announced increased pre-tax profits, Ineos and PetroChina had signed a partnership securing local jobs and international investment, and HEROtsc in Larbert had increased staff to deal with new contracts.

He added: “Falkirk Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland to launch an economic action plan to deal with the effects of the economic downturn.”