Regional partners go to Westminster to unlock the Belfast Region City Deal
Belfast Region City Deal partners are forging ahead with their efforts to secure £1bn co-investment from the UK government, regional government, local government and the universities, which will be added to by the private sector. The objective is to create up to 20,000 new and better jobs and to deliver a 10 year programme of inclusive economic growth.
Following months of intensive preparations, Belfast Region City Deal partners (Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Newry and Down District Council, working in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, the Further Education colleges across the Belfast Region and the NI Civil Service), with the support of all the political parties here, submitted their ambitious negotiating position to the NI Secretary of State and Westminster at the end of September. They’re keeping up the momentum to negotiate the best deal possible for the Region.
The Deal focuses on accelerating inclusive economic growth in the industry areas where we’re experiencing most rapid growth and have the potential to become world leaders. Its four key investment pillars are: digital and innovation, infrastructure, tourism led regeneration and employability and skills.
Addressing politicians, business people, and education representatives at a Westminster reception today on behalf of the Belfast Region City Deal partners, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Deirdre Hargey said: “We’ve developed a genuine partnership and collaboration through this process and together we’re creating real momentum to deliver a decade of significant investment to boost inclusive economic growth, create up to 20,000 new and better jobs and £470m Gross Value Added (GVA). We’re absolutely focused on accelerating growth - helping our local businesses become more competitive, making the region a global investment destination and ensuring that we make a positive difference to those living in our most deprived communities.
“We’ve already proven that we can lead the way in innovation, digital development and tourism led regeneration, so we want to secure the investment we need to take us to the next level and firmly establish us on the global stage in areas like Life and Health Sciences, Creative Industries and Advanced Manufacturing. We’ve also given a great deal of consideration to the infrastructure we need to support our plans. But perhaps most importantly for me, we’re working with our regional further education colleges to underpin our ambitions with an extensive employability and skills programme to tackle skills gaps and make sure that people can access and benefit from the jobs that will be created. What we want now is to secure an announcement in the Autumn Budget which will tell us that the Treasury is making a significant, long term commitment to boosting our economy. This will then be matched by the six Councils and from the NI block grant, creating more bang for everyone’s buck.”
Nigel Dodds MP added: “This is an exciting, once in a generation opportunity to deliver a real boost for the Belfast Region and the wider Northern Ireland economy. The Belfast Region City Deal could see £1 billion of investment across a number of key sectors and has the potential to leverage up to £4 billion of investment from the private sector.
“The Belfast Region has seen significant progress in recent years with record levels of foreign direct investment and thousands of new jobs created, but there remain a number of barriers to growth in Belfast and the surrounding area; namely low productivity, economic inactivity, skills gaps and a need to invest in an ageing infrastructure.
“This City Deal can help us to address these barriers, prepare for the future jobs markets and have a transformative impact on the lives of people living, working and visiting the Belfast Region.”
The six councils are working with Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, Further Education Colleges - and in close collaboration with the Northern Ireland Civil Service - to bring forward a range of ambitious projects for this programme of investment.
The partners anticipate that an announcement will be made in the Autumn Budget statement on Monday, 29 October. This would give them the green light to work up implementation plans.
For more information, go to www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfastregioncitydeal and follow #BRcitydeal on Twitter.
Here’s what the partners want to deliver through a Belfast Region City Deal:
• We want to be world renowned for innovation; so we’re creating a Global Innovation Institute that will leverage our universities’ research capabilities to drive connectivity and help businesses in priority growth sectors derive value from data to invigorate the economy. These sectors include financial services, healthcare and agri-food.
• Other centres of innovation, led by our universities will give our most rapidly growing business sectors (advanced manufacturing, creative industries and life and health sciences) access to cutting edge technologies and expertise, including a ‘factory of the future’. This will support them to build capacity, fuel growth, bring new products and services to market and attract inward investment.
• We’ll prioritise significant investment in a Smart District, technology testbeds and next generation digital connectivity to enable businesses across the region to connect to new markets and opportunities.
• We want to keep tourists here longer, so we’re investing in additional world class, authentic visitor attractions which will attract both domestic and international visitors.
• We want to open up affordable transport access to the new and better jobs that will be created as a result of investment, so we’ll deliver Phase Two of the Belfast Rapid Transit system to connect from Belfast north towards Newtownabbey and south towards Carryduff.
• And we’ll create and deliver an extensive employability and skills programme, incorporating apprenticeship schemes, with a specific focus on digital skills, so that we can make sure that people are ready to secure the jobs of the future – and encourage those who have moved away to return home and build their lives here.
The Belfast Region City Deal is separate to the Derry and Strabane City Deal. However, both sets of partners are working to ensure that benefits will flow to the whole NI economy.