The Lead Finance Officer presented the above report, a copy of which had previously been circulated. He advised that the purpose of the report was to update Members on the progress towards the development of a Growth Deal for the City Region.
The Chief Executive advised that in addition to the report the purpose was to indicate to Members the very extensive amount of work which had been carried out to develop the City Deal proposal and to lobby on behalf of this. He stated that there had been a number of updates since the above report had been written. He pointed out that the previous week a number of representatives including Lord Hay, Elisha McCallion MP and Colm Eastwood MLA had attended a meeting at Westminster to demonstrate the importance of this Deal for the City and region. He had also hosted a visit to the City from Kris Hopkins Special Advisor to the NIO which was also attended by other key advisors when a detailed report had been provided on the economic benefits of a Deal. He pointed out that further to a recent Motion passed by Council, he had written to all MPs together with Minister Brokenshire and the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley and had stepped up the campaign for a City Growth Deal. He said it was necessary for government to make a formal statement that it would be entering into negotiations with Council to develop a Growth Deal for the City. It was not possible to advance until such a statement had been made.
The Chief Executive whilst welcoming the announcement in regards to the City Deal for Belfast stated that Council had been lobbying for a parallel announcement to be made in respect of the City. He reiterated that a formal announcement was required prior to advancing a business case.
Councillor M McHugh congratulated Council on the work carried out in this regard. He stated that Council were prepared for this in every respect and possibly more than other areas which had had been identified. He also commended all the politicians who had supported Council’s application and hoped that Council would receive an announcement sooner rather than later in respect of the North West region. He stated that this would benefit the area and the entire region immensely.
Councillor Tierney referred to the considerable hard work and efforts by politicians during the previous twelve months which was evident He stated that Colm Eastwood MLA continued to work with other politicians towards a formal announcement regarding a City Growth Deal.
Councillor Gallagher acknowledged the work carried out to date in this regard however, he urged caution in terms of expenditure on a proposed Deal given the uncertainties regarding a formal government announcement, particularly given the situation in terms of the European City of Culture Bid.
The Chief Executive acknowledged the previous speaker’s comments. He referred to the fact that these were key projects for the City and region and all of the expenditure incurred was in respect of the City and region. He continued that a City Deal might be the best way in which to progress these projects however, there may be other mechanisms through which these could be delivered which would be investigated if a City Deal announcement was not forthcoming.
The Lead Finance Officer advised that significant progress had been made to date with no additional cost to Council. He referred to the need for the projects to be progressed, however Council had not committed any funds to date and this had all been carried out through the internal team.
Alderman Hussey stated that any Deal would be for the benefit of the entire Council area. He sought a list of those politicians who were involved in the meetings/briefings referred to in 3.6 of the report.
He enquired if the letter dated 15 June 2018 referred to in 3.9 had been sent to MPs who did not attend Westminster.
The Chief Executive confirmed that the letter had been sent to all NI MPs at Westminster.
Alderman Ramsey welcomed the report but acknowledged that there was still a considerable amount of work to be carried out. He referred to the fact that the Prime Minister and Minister Brokenshire would be visiting the City in the coming weeks when it would be necessary to present a united front in order for the Deal to be approved and an announcement to be forthcoming.
The Chief Executive acknowledged that this was a vital point and stated that in many discussions which had taken place the importance of this had been stressed which was evident from the meeting with Minister Brokenshire which had taken place the previous week. He continued that this was not merely a politically united front but in terms of business leaders, statutory partners, politicians and the community. He concluded that there was a clear united voice which was considered to be a key advantage of the proposal.
Recommended that Members endorse the progress made to date in the development of a Growth Deal for the City Region and hat Members and officials continue to pressure the UK Government to provide a formal announcement to open negotiations for a Derry-Londonderry City Region Growth Deal.