Budget: Philip Hammond announces £350 million for Belfast city deal

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivers his Budget to the House of Commons
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivers his Budget to the House of Commons

The Belfast region will receive £350 million under the City Deal scheme, the Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced.

The Budget announced by Mr Hammond at Westminster today received a mostly warm welcome from the DUP, who had warned it could oppose the government’s plans unless it received assurances on Brexit.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (left) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn listen as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond makes his Budget statement to MPs

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (left) and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn listen as Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond makes his Budget statement to MPs

But DUP MP Sammy Wilson said there was “good news in this budget for Northern Ireland”.

He highlighted a £320 million increase in the block grant due to the way funding for UK regions is calculated, known as the Barnett formula.

A further £300 million was also announced for shared and integrated education, while £2 million was earmarked for Belfast city centre to aid in the recovery from a major fire at the Primark outlet on Castle Street in August.

The £350 million City Deal funding fell short of the £450 million that Belfast and five other councils in the east of Northern Ireland had hoped for.

The councils joined forces with universities and higher education institutions to pitch for an agreement they believe can deliver 20,000 jobs through a 10-year investment strategy.

They asked Mr Hammond to stump up £450 million but during his Budget statement the chancellor announced £350m from the Exchequer.

The Northern Ireland Executive is expected to add at least a further £350 million when elected ministers return.

The five councils have pledged a combined £100 million investment, while Queen’s University and Ulster University have committed to putting in £50 million.

Mr Hammond also announced formal negotiations have opened for a Londonderry and Strabane City Region Deal.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley described it as a “fantastic result” for Belfast.

“The Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Civil Service have worked closely with local authorities to help deliver a fantastic result for Belfast,” she said.

Mr Wilson said: “There is good news in this Budget for Northern Ireland and the entire United Kingdom but it is a missed opportunity to set out a new economic vision for the nation.

“This should have been the Budget where the chancellor outlined the opportunities for the UK as we exit the EU.

“The £350m for a Belfast Regional City Deal must be welcomed and is a massive achievement for all involved. Northern Ireland City Deals date back to the DUP’s June 2017 confidence and supply agreement. City Deals have transformed regions in Great Britain and we can now look forward to similar results in Northern Ireland. The fact that they are not tied to a functioning NI Executive is also incredibly useful as Sinn Fein continues to block devolution.”

DUP deputy leader, Nigel Dodds said: “Today’s announcement is further evidence of our commitment to deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland.

“Using our influence at Westminster we have be able to secure unprecedented levels of investment for Belfast.

“Under our confidence and supply agreement we placed a City Deal for Belfast at the heart of that arrangement. I am delighted that we have been able to secure a £350 million contribution from the Treasury to the overall £1 billion deal.

“This City Deal provides a once in a generation opportunity to accelerate economic growth, create record levels of new jobs and transform our local communities.

“We have ensured the Belfast City Deal will become a reality.”

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, said the extra funding “will not even keep pace with inflation”.

Sinn Fein MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir added: “We needed a 3% increase in our resource budget just to stand still but that was not delivered in this budget. And there is no sign of the £1bn removed from our block grant over the past eight years being replaced.”