Rail link could be ‘transformational’ for Levenmouth

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Levenmouth must make the most of the rail link and other opportunities on offer to help tackle deprivation in the area.

That was the message to councillors at last week’s Levenmouth Area Committee, as they were presented with figures about the economic situation in the area.

The figures showed a huge rise in employment between December 2017 and December 2018, rising from 69.3 per cent to 79.6 per cent, meaning the employment rate in Levenmouth was higher than the Fife and Scottish averages, and the second highest in the Kingdom. This sudden rise is thought to be a result of a reduction in the working age population and more people being in work.

However, the report also showed that 49.1 per cent of this was low skilled work – described as jobs such as those in the caring profession and process, plant and machine operatives. This was 14 per cent higher than the Fife and Scottish averages.

The figures showed that, on average, people who live in Levenmouth but commute to outside the area for work were likely to be making more than people who worked in Levenmouth.

Figures from June 2019 also showed that Levenmouth had the highest claimant rate – the sum of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants and people required to search for work on Universal Credit – in Fife.

The Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages ward had a 8.5 per cent claimant rate – more than double the Fife average.

Councillors were told that things that could be done to help the economic situation are maximising investment in the energy park; supporting BiFab to win new contracts; improving the use of Methil docks one and two; regenerating the town centre and finding new uses for vacant units; and overcoming the issue of deprivation by investing in things like employment and education.

It was also suggested that the Standing Stane could be improved to help transport links to the area.

The was also discussion about the impact the Levenmouth rail link and other opportunities – such as the River Leven project, the High Street funding and Levenmouth Together – could have on the area.

George Sneddon, interim chief officer for business and employment at Fife Council, told councillors: “The opportunities the rail link provides for the area could be transformational.”

However, he noted that there was a problem in Levenmouth with “low wages, low skills”.

Councillor Colin Davidson brought up the issue of BiFab, saying: “What’s going to happen when these eight jackets are done? We can’t take our eye off BiFab.”

He added: “I think we’ve taken our eye off the ball. BiFab is a cornerstone for young people to get opportunities going forward.

“We need to maximise the opportunities presented to us in the next six months.”

Councillor David Alexander said he “won’t be happy until our numbers are above the Fife average, the Scottish average.”

He called for investment to protect the sea wall at the energy park, describing this as the “next big spend for Levenmouth”.