Economic ‘miss’ for council

Jonathan Buckley
Jonathan Buckley

The local Council is missing out on a plan to bring £1billion and 20,000 jobs to Northern Ireland, a local MLA has claimed

Upper Bann DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley says he is astonished Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has been excluded from the plan.

Last week Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £350 million of Treasury backing for the Belfast Region City Deal.

The deal sets out a 15-year plan to grow the economy, boost jobs and tourism, increasing skills, encouraging investment and developing infrastructure.

Six Northern Ireland councils are working in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Northern Ireland Office, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury as well as Queen’s and Ulster Universities, and Further Education Colleges to move forward with the City Deal plans.

Mr Buckley said: “Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon’s absence from what has been described as a once in a generation opportunity is astounding.”

He added: “I am stunned ABC appears to have missed an incredible opportunity through Belfast Region City Deal. Just last month the council’s chief executive Roger Wilson was quoted as saying: ‘We are proactively developing a high-quality business infrastructure, boosting skills in the region, supporting economic development and promoting the borough as being very much open for business.’

“City Deal ticks all of those boxes and more, and our borough’s vital strategic location would surely have made it the ideal location to benefit from the City Deal bid. The fact that councils as far away as Newry and Mourne have secured their place at the Belfast region city deal table, gives me even more cause for concern as to why Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon are missing.

“Just last week ABC council announced it had written to the Chancellor alongside Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh councils to ask for a Treasury backed scheme, and Northern Ireland’s 3rd city deal. This leads me to ask why they (ABC Council) are not included in the Belfast city deal, when others were.

“You just have to look at our neighbours to see what is being outlined. The Newry Southern Relief Road, for example, will be an invaluable addition to the area. In County Antrim, Carrickfergus is earmarked for around £40m of investment in its town centre. My constituency of Upper Bann is crying out for similar investment, and was geographically and economical well placed to be included.”

A spokesperson for the Council said ABC Council “set out its plans to explore mechanisms for a Growth Deal in collaboration with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council in a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond.

“We believe that working with our two neighbouring councils – which represent one quarter of Northern Ireland’s population – we have a strong chance of securing a Growth Deal which will work to boost economic growth and deliver a step-change to the future prospects of the collective area. It will work alongside the Belfast City Region Deal and the proposed Derry/Londonderry City Deal to bolster the NI economy as a whole.”