Fife Council Labour leader Alex Rowley has said that a new ‘rapid reaction’ approach is needed to support Fife businesses where they are experiencing difficulties. He also described comments being attributed to a council source about the councils dealings with Kingdom Bakers who recently went into receivership as being completely “inappropriate and damaging” to the chances of saving the jobs.
Mr Rowley said; “I have dealt with Kingdom Bakers over the last two years and I have now written to the Director of Finance and the Chief Executive raising a formal complaint about comments being made in the press by a so called council source.
“My experience particularly in recent weeks has led me to believe that the council is not geared up to provide the relevant support at the right time for companies who are struggling, juggling their creditors and trying to keep trading in difficult times. In the case of Kingdom Bakers, there is no doubt that the actions taken by Fife Council finance services brought the crisis to a head. This is not to suggest that Fife Council closed the company but their actions were the catalyst in it stopping trading.
“I have nothing but respect for the finance service however you need a more joined up approach across the council that is not driven on the basis of recovering monies owed to the council. We also need expertise in business going in at an earlier stage and we need to flag up to any company struggling that we want to help and we have the resources to do so”.
Mr Rowley drew a comparison with the amounts of public money going into attracting and encouraging companies to locate in Fife and said more must be done to support existing companies here in Fife. He said; “We see major investments of public money to bring companies to the area and just this week everyone was celebrating the possibility of 500 jobs emerging from the green energy industry. But at the same time, we froze an account of a company for £42,000 which blocked that companies trading and speeded up their demise with the loss of 185 jobs. This does not stack up and we need an honest discussion around what is available to help companies and what needs to be put in place.
The Labour leader warned that things are likely to get worse and argued that more must be done now to support existing Fife companies. He said; “If you do not work tirelessly to help local companies already here in Fife then the 185 jobs in Kingdom Bakers will keep happening. How many jobs will we have to create and how much public money will we have to spend to bring in replacement jobs? This is not good sense and not a good use of public money and we must get a balance that does everything possible to protect the jobs already here. As I understand it we are no nearer getting the £42,000 we froze or the other £48,000 that was owed to us”
He concluded; “I will be putting forward a proposal in the coming weeks and will introduce a rapid response unit that coordinates work with business across the council as one of the first acts of a Labour Administration after May”.