11 °CTue, 13

Three councils call on Chancellor for deal to boost economic growth

John Hooks

Reporter:

John Hooks

Email:

john.hooks@ulstergazette.co.uk

ARMAGH City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council have confirmed their intent to develop a proposition and work towards a Growth Deal to boost economic growth and deliver a step change to the future prospects of the collective area.

The three councils - which together represent over 25% of Northern Ireland’s population - have written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond stating a Growth Deal would address specific economic needs and is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, not just for the region, but for the whole of Northern Ireland.

Speaking in a landmark joint statement of intent, they said they have agreed to work together to develop a strategic economic plan focused on improving productivity; creating more and better jobs; addressing economic infrastructure; growing investment; supporting business innovation and improving skills.

That commitment and the call for a Growth Deal are aligned with the Chancellor’s statement in 2017 which laid out the government’s plan to “work toward a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals” in Northern Ireland.

The three councils said a bespoke deal for the region would sit alongside the propositions being developed for a Belfast Region City Deal and a Derry/Londonderry City Deal to deliver a step change in investment and productivity for Northern Ireland as a whole.

They said a Growth Deal will help grow an already strong economy – the region is home to a third of all NI’s businesses (34%), which collectively provide over 200,000 jobs, and three quarters of the total employment is in the private sector, a higher proportion than the UK average – and offer support to the strong sectors of advanced manufacturing, agri food, engineering, construction and tourism.

Councillor Julie Flaherty, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said “Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has a number of key ambitions for our economy and society in the years ahead and we are well aware that we can meet those targets by being more joined up and working collaboratively with our neighbouring councils. By joining up the three council areas, we can hopefully leverage a Growth Deal which allows us all to put in place the structures we need to allow our companies to grow, to encourage entrepreneurialism and to put in place interventions for economic growth.”

Councillor Howard Thornton, Chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, said “We would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with our partner Councils to engage with government on the detail of developing and successfully delivering an economic plan and a Growth Deal for our three Council areas in partnership with the administrations in Stormont and Westminster."

Councillor Sean McPeake, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said “This Growth Deal will demonstrate the power of collaboration to drive greater opportunities for our companies and citizens, our economy and society. In particular, a Growth Deal gives us a unique opportunity to increase the competitiveness and productivity in advanced manufacturing.

“We believe there is much to be gained from this cohesive joined-up approach which has the common goal of making our collective council areas and the wider region stronger, both economically and socially.”

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