Chairman reflects on mixed start to 2011

Isobel Ross
Isobel Ross

THE Chairman of Forfar Community Council has reacted to the mixed news on the local jobs front, in a week that saw a massive jobs boost from ASDA and then the loss of 20 jobs with the closure of the Universal Group’s call centre in the town.

Add to that the imminent closure of the Driving Standards Agency’s test centre in Prior Road, Mrs Isobel Ross said these were “extremely challenging times” for the town.

Buoyed up by the news that ASDA will create 270 full and part-time jobs at their store in St James Road, and that the company would work closely with JobCentre Plus and the long term unemployed, Mrs Ross lamented the loss of 20 jobs with the Universal call centre.

She said: “20 jobs is 20 families.”

“These are extremely challenging times but there is a glimmer of hope on jobs.

“Greggs the baker is taking another Castle Street shop, and hopefully ASDA will be up and running by the end of the year providing jobs.

“I very much welcome the news they will be working with JobCentre Plus. Giving people a job gives them some sense of self respect back.

“A lot of people on benefits don’t want to be there.

“There is a glimmer of hope and hopefully there will be no more large scale redundancies in the town.”

She welcomed the news ASDA would soon be operating out of a site straddling The Vennel, St James Road and New Road, with the company predicting the new store will open in the autumn.

There has been mixed reaction to the ASDA superstore, with two of Forfar’s four local councillors expressing fears for the future of Forfar’s independent stores.

Mrs Ross continued: “If people don’t have the money coming in i.e. through their jobs, they can’t spend it, no matter where they are.

“On the jobs front I am quite pleased ASDA is coming to the town. I know it’s a year down the line before the jobs will be available but we have just lost 20 jobs with Universal. These are very, very difficult times for everybody.”

She referred to the “changing times” on the ‘High Street’ and added: “To a certain extent you have to go with what’s happening.”

Mrs Ross also hit out at the decision taken by the DSA to close its test centres in Forfar and Arbroath on March, 18, without consultation.

She spoke of the impact the decision would have on young people taking driving lessons, many preparing themselves for when the time comes they have a job and need to have a licence.

“It is going to be hard for them and for the driving instructors, as driving lessons will take up a lot more time of their day.”

Closure of the two test centres would leave Montrose as the only test centre in Angus, with many claiming learners from Forfar would be expected to take their tests in Dundee.

Mrs Ross continued: “The knock-on effect for instructors and learners could be considerable - it’s appalling.

“It is another chip away at services in Angus with no consultation.

“To me they (the DSA) are working economics to suit themselves, they are not interested in the knock on effect to the users.”

She spoke of her fears of “decentralising” services in Dundee and asked “where Angus falls in the pecking order.”

“We are having all these things stripped away in preparation for what?”

“I am really disappointed that these decisions were made without consultation and am sure a number of driving instructors in Angus will be quite dismayed and upset.

“This will eventually have an impact on their earnings.”

She urged people to sign the petition and called on those campaigning for the retention of the Forfar and Arbroath centres to encourage people to contact them direct by letter, or for those leading the campaign to send out individual forms to ensure a petition is not considered as “one signature”.