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South of Scotland Alliance meets with Deputy First Minister

John Swinney Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has met with the South of Scotland Alliance to discuss the main economic challenges facing businesses and communities in the south of Scotland.

At the meeting in Dumfries, he was updated on the progress of the South of Scotland Rural Regional Economic Development Programme.

But other topics discussed included constitutional changes, European funding, superfast broadband and mobile phone coverage.

The alliance, which is made up of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council, and Scottish Enterprise, said the meeting was "constructive".

“This was an important meeting with Mr Swinney where we raised key issues concerning the economic development of the south of Scotland and the importance of working with the Scottish Government.

“Positive progress is being made on some of our key economic projects such as the Borders Railway, but others such as Stranraer Waterfront still need further Government and national agency support.

"There is also still a great deal of work to be done to push forward effective programmes to support businesses in the south of Scotland in relation to innovation, internationalisation and leadership and to ensure we have comprehensive mobile phone coverage and broadband links in our remoter areas.’’

– Cllr Colin Smyth, Alliance Chair, and Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee

'Parliament day' to receive petition against Whitesands flooding measures

Flooding at Whitesands in December Credit: ITV Border

A public petition against new flood prevention plans in Dumfries will be heard during a "parliament day'" in the town.

A local resident is presenting his arguments against the multi-million scheme on the Whitesands, which he believes will obscure river views forever and take away safe car parking.

The public petitions committee will consider two other petitions when it meets at Easterbrook Hall.

The committee can decide if the petitions will be considered by the Scottish Parliament.

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'Parliament day' underway in Dumfries

The Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee meeting Credit: ITV Border

"Parliament day" has kicked off in Dumfries, giving local people direct access to national decision makers.

For the first time, the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee is meeting in the town.

Three petitions by local people are to be heard over the day. They'll then be taken back to Holyrood for consideration.

The day also provides the chance for the parliament's presiding officer to go and visit some local school children and businesses to talk about democracy in Scotland.

Rise in Council Tax agreed in Eden District's budget

Eden District Council has agreed its budget Credit: PA

Eden District Council has announced it's agreed its budget.

Council Tax will rise by 1.99% from April, but there are no plans to reduce services in the area.

The tax rise means an increase of £3.61 a year. Residents of an average Band B property will now be charged £185.18 a year.

But are no proposals to reduce services, something the Council says it its proud of:

“Our budget for next year protects our services. This is a tremendous achievement given the major grant reductions we have faced. Our careful financial management has also allowed us to make several important investments."

– Cllr Gordon Nicolson OBE, Eden District Council’s Leader

It says the rise in Tax will be used to fund services such as weekly bin collections, and two leisure centres in Appleby and Penrith.

It also says the budget includes plans to invest £100,000 for its footway lighting programme, and to create a £1million Affordable Housing Fund.

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Council approves budget

Protesters outside the meeting where Councillors agreed the budget. Credit: ITV Border

Unison say they will continue to oppose budget cuts approved by Cumbria County Council today.

Fifty Councillors voted in favour of plans to cut 1,800 jobs and raise council tax by just under 2%.

It's part of a drive to save £83 million after funding cuts from central Government.

Councillors arriving for the meeting were met by protesters from the union.

Protesters call for delay to budget decisions

Protests were held outside Cumbria County Council offices as councillors met to vote on cutting 1,800 jobs, and reducing key services.

Councillors are still debating at the meeting in Kendal, where the council's budget for the next three years will be set.

Central government funding for Cumbria is being cut by £83 million between now and 2018.

Protesters are asking for any final decisions about the cuts to be delayed.

WATCH: from lunch time to Question Time

In the run up to this year's General Election, we'll be showcasing the inventive ways schools across the region are getting young people interested in politics.

In the first in our School Debate series, Kate Walby visits Nelson Tomlinson School in Wigton, where lunch time has become Question Time.

To find out more about ITV's School Debate initiative, click here.

Protesters gather at Council meeting

Protesters have gathered outside Kendal's County Hall Credit: ITV Border

Protestors against cuts to jobs and services have gathered outside Kendal's County Hall today.

Cumbria County Council is meeting there to vote on its budget for the next three years, which includes proposals to cut 1,800 jobs.

Central government funding for Cumbria is being reduced by £83,000,000 between now and 2018.

They are protesting cuts to jobs Credit: ITV Border
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