Three more Councils unite to seek City Deal - but Causeway is left out

The Almac Group in Craigavon is among a number of world leading businesses based within the three Council areas uniting behind a Growth Deal bid to government
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THREE more councils in the north 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.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Mid-Ulster District Council - which together represent more than a quarter of Northern Ireland's population - have written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond claiming that such a deal would address specific economic needs and would be "a once-in-a-generation opportunity".

They say a bespoke deal for the region would sit alongside the propositions being developed for a Belfast Region City Deal (six councils are involved here) and a Derry City Deal to deliver a step change in investment and productivity for Northern Ireland as a whole.

It means that 10 of the north's 11 local councils are now working towards the formal agreements with the government to have a range of economic powers devolved to them.

Only Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council is left out.

In their joint statement of intent, the three latest councils 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 in the latest bid are home to a third of all Northern Ireland businesses (34 per cent), which collectively provide more than 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.

The region is home to some of Northern Ireland's biggest and world leading businesses including Almac, Moy Park, Thompson Aero, Terex, Dunbia, McAleer and Rushe, Balcas, Encirc and The Kerry Group.

Councillor Julie Flaherty, lord mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said “We have a number of key ambitions for our economy and society in the years ahead and are well aware that we can meet those targets by being more joined up.

"Working collaboratively with our neighbouring councils to 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.”

Her words were echoed by Councillor Howard Thornton, chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, and councillor Sean McPeake, chair of Mid-Ulster District Council.

Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham have all previously availed from City Deal agreements.

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