Joe has raised concerns that neither the Scottish Government nor Scottish Enterprise are taking responsibility for £335,000 of public money that's been given to HOWCO.
In 2013 the Scottish Government announced that £750,000 of public money would be given to HOWCO to create 67 new jobs at their Irvine plant. Last year 50 workers at the site lost their job.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously declined to tell Councillor Cullinane how much public money had been been given to the company, only stating that Scottish Enterprise would pay the £750,000 ‘offer’ in instalments.
Scottish Enterprise failed to respond to emails and letters from Councillor Cullinane on the issue, leaving him with no other option but to submit a Freedom of Information request. That FOI has came back heavily redacted - with all information about the payment instalments, what they’d be used for and the number of jobs at the plant excluded. There is also no information about how the use of the public money had been scrutinised.
Speaking on the issue, Councillor Cullinane said;
“We now know that, to date, £335,000 of public money has been given to HOWCO but we still don't know what for!”
“Promises were made about job creation and it's clear that they haven't been delivered.”
“The reluctance of the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to disclose information about their investment raises concerns that the only return on tax payers money has been 50 P45’s. They must be held to account for the use of public money and accept responsibility for failings in this case.”
Councillor Cullinane added;
“HOWCO were offered £750,000 and two payment instalments are still outstanding. Scottish Enterprise state that the full ‘offer’ is only paid on the company reaching targets set. However, despite the loss of jobs at HOWCO they have failed to rule out further payments. I will be pressing them on this issue – before any more public money is given out they must disclose the job information that they are refusing to disclose.”
Councillor Cullinane concluded;
“Unemployment in North Ayrshire continues to be higher than the Scottish average. Our area needs good quality jobs –highly skilled, well paying jobs. I will always support efforts to bring these jobs to the area and I am vigorously pursuing the HOWCO issue because it shows some serious failings in how the Scottish Government is using public money for economic development.”
“This investment, of up to £750,000, should have delivered 67 new jobs, as was promised, but instead people have lost their job. It raises questions about what balances and checks are in place to ensure these grants are being used as intended and delivering the jobs they are meant to create and protect.”
“This case has left me wondering whether more powers, and budgets, over economic development should be devolved to local authorities who would be able to tailor support to their local economy to help it grow.”