Kirkcaldy’s population is growing, and there are reasons to be cheerful – but the town still faces some big challenges.
Its aim is to be a great place to live, work and visit, and the latest economic profile of the Lang Toun gave councillors much food for thought.
It was presented to the area committee on Tuesday, and the raw data flagged up positives as well as areas of concern.
The good news:
Kirkcaldy’s population is growing – it has now gone through the 60,000 barrier.
People who work here earn more than in other Fife towns.
Employment rates are high
And tourism is a growing market with huge potential.
The bad news: People staying here and working elsewhere earn less than the Fife average.
The town has a higher rate of employment in low skilled jobs.
Almost 20 per cent of folk are economically inactive.
Almost 10 per cent have no qualifications at all – above the Fife average.
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Kirkcaldy town centre has a signicantly higher percentage of empty shops and vacant floor space than elsewhere in the region.
The snapshot of the town was welcomed by Councillor Neil Crooks, convener of the committee.
He pinpointed the £500m Kingslaw development that will transform the north-east of the town, and the steady residential growth that opens up new opportunities for the High Street as retail contracts.
He also noted the rise in the number of jobs for women, and the arrival of VeriCall which created 200 living wage jobs as it moved into Kirkcaldy.
“We have to shout from the rooftops about these,” he said. “Businesses such as VeriCall came here for a reason. We have to be welcoming and positive to all potential investors.”
The economic profile touched on everything from salaries to support for new start-ups.
With a population increasing to 60,243 – 500 up on the 2011 census – the Lang Toun has an employment rate of 77 per cent, with 45 per cent in low skilled work.
The biggest source of jobs (6000) remains the health sector – no surprise given the Victoria Hospital is based in Kirkcaldy – with wholesale and retail still accounting for 4500 despite the High Street’s contraction. Construction and manufacturing account for 3500.
The document showed just 19 of the 99 businesses supported in 2018-19 were in Kirkcaldy. That support was worth £ 27,000 from a total of £155,000.
Only 23 local start-ups out of 139 were helped by Business Gateway – and just 26 of Fife Council‘s economic development’s top 200 listed businesses were based in this area.
Councillor Alistair Cameron expressed his concern at the low numbers, adding: “I appreciate businesses have to come forward for help, but jobs are key to our wealth.”
He also highlighted the need for more smaller units as part of a re-thinking of Mitchelston Industrial Estate.
The tourism sector for Kirkcaldy and Mid Fife was also highlighted as a positive.
The Footsteps of the Kings app – which includes Ravenscraig Castle – has logged some 700 downloads, and the Heartlands of Fife Local Tourism Association is working on a toolkit to encourage wider usage.
The town has backed a new golf trail, and a new driving route – Fife 191 – is due to be launched this autumn which will include the Lang Toun. It aims to replicate the success of the North Coast 500.