Belfast mayor welcomes potential beefed up powers for city
The announcement of a potential Government deal to hand beefed-up powers to Belfast has been welcomed in the city, but drawn anger in Londonderry.
While Belfast mayor Nuala McAllister hailed Chancellor Philip Hammond’s City Deal announcement, SDLP leader and Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood accused the Chancellor of snubbing Derry, branding its exclusion a “disgrace”.
The bespoke agreements with Government, which are already in operation in major urban centres such as Manchester and Glasgow, hand city councils greater powers to lead infrastructure developments, generate wealth and access finance.
Ms McAllister said: “A City Deal for the Belfast region would be a 10-year investment plan to improve infrastructure in the region, develop innovation and skills and attract more and better jobs.
“This will create a real ‘fast-forward’ for economic growth here. Working closely with businesses, universities and further education sectors, locally elected representatives across all parties are committed to getting the best deal possible.”
Mr Eastwood said Derry had been “sidelined”.
“For too long, Derry and the North West has been treated like the poor relation,” he said.
“Like a second class citizen, and we aren’t taking it. With Brexit coming down the line and our unique position on the border, Derry needs this investment now. We won’t wait.
“While my colleagues in Belfast will be pleased to see this investment, we must all have the courage to stand up for those who have been left behind, and the North West has. It’s time to fight back to address regional disparity once and for all.”
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire insisted the consultation on the Belfast deal was only a beginning and Government had hopes for a range of City Deals in the region.
“Obviously the Belfast region has come forward with their thoughts and proposal and how we can take that forward but I would certainly welcome councils from across Northern Ireland see how they can come forward,” he said.