The Strategic Business Manager presented the above report, a copy of which had previously been circulated. She advised that the purpose of the report was to consult Members of the Committee on the draft Statement of Progress for the Strategic Growth Plan/Community Plan.
The Strategic Business Manager gave a power-point presentation outlining the contents of the Draft Statement of Progress which provided a comprehensive review of the draft Statement of Progress for the Strategic Growth Plan/Community Plan previously circulated to Members.
The Chief Executive thanked the Strategic Business Manager for her presentation and commended her on the work involved in preparing the draft statement much of which had been carried out during the summer period. He reminded Members that the first report to be considered by the newly merged Derry City and Strabane District Council related to Community Planning and the impact thereof. He referred to the significance of this issue for Council and the subsequent statutory engagement process which had been embarked upon, which had ultimately culminated in the preparation of the draft Strategic Growth Plan presented to Committee.
He pointed out that Council’s Community Plan was the most developed of all of the eleven Councils and contained the most detailed actions to ensure that the various inequality issues and indicators were addressed and provided a guarantee that Council was on track in accordance with projected aims. Whilst acknowledging the enormous amount of work still required, he welcomed the massive progress which had been made across so many aspects of the Plan. He continued that 78% of the actions were on target which reflected the considerable work which had already taken place between all of the partners involved in trying to deliver in terms of Community Planning on the various outcomes and objectives.
He acknowledged that there was still a long way to go, however, it was encouraging that the process was moving in the right direction with a strong evidence base having been provided by the NISRA’s Statistician and Council’s Economists which would ensure that all of the issues could be analysed and addressed at base to determine specific outcomes. He stated that this was a milestone and a marked achievement in terms of Community Planning.
Councillor Cooper welcomed the presentation by the Strategic Business Manager and the fact that the draft Plan contained so many positive indicators which was commendable. Whilst acknowledging the substantial amount of work involved in carrying out this process and the significant progress which had been made across the board in terms of positive outcomes, he did, however, refer to a number of indicators which were not improving. He referred to a key issue in regards to this Council area having historically and currently been subject to a most severe austerity agenda from Westminster, and anticipated that under a new government this would be addressed. He referred to the general increase in mental health problems including depression and a general lack of confidence regarding the future, the core reason for which was the continuous underfunding of front line services. He pointed out that if this problem was not addressed the situation would remain unchanged and continue to deteriorate.
In regards to the City Deal he referred to the need to progress in terms of identifying and securing match funding particularly in regards to the University in terms of being an economic driver and addressing the current brain drain. He said it was a key factor that all of the projects involved in the City Deal were innovative. However, all of this was dependant on the wider resources available from whichever Party was in government in Westminster. He referred to the need to be positive in regards to what had been achieved whilst continuing to work towards further progression.
Councillor McClintock welcomed the report and commended those involved in the preparation thereof. She stated that the Draft Plan was most uplifting showing the baseline to identify where progress had been made and providing guidance in terms of going forward. She also appreciated the incorporation of personal success stories in the Draft Plan referring to the far reaching benefits to be enjoyed by those concerned and their families. She referred to the importance of partnership working for the good of the electorate. She concluded that the outcomes of the past two years provided a good base upon which to work in terms of the Plan and the City Deal.
Councillor Mellon welcomed the report and said it was refreshing to see the positive personal impact which had been achieved. She stated that the Draft Plan clearly displayed Council’s agenda for the City and District. She referred to the significant change in terms of children and young people within the Council area pointing out that Council were to the fore in providing this platform. She commended Council staff involved in Youth 19 and the Children and Young Peoples’ team on the work they were carrying out to promote young children within the City and District and address the inequalities which existed and provide inclusion for all. She referred to the social indicators in regards to health and wellbeing and expressed concern at the 14 inequality gaps which had widened during 2019 and anticipated an improvement in these figures in going forward. She welcomed the figures in respect of education and skills and referred to the need to address the lack of relevant employment positions. She referred to the very successful holistic and collective approach which had been adopted in respect of addressing the various indicators and achieving the necessary outcomes.
In regards to the personal achievement stories contained in the Draft Plan, Councillor Reilly stated that Council had taken a very strong first step in regards to Community Planning and the Strategic Growth Plan. In acknowledging the figures contained in the Draft Plan he pointed out that Council had, since its inception, established strong partnership arrangements with others in the North West to address all of the issues and the inequalities which existed and deliver for the people of the City and District. He stated that the success of the process to date was reflected in the numbers of local citizens who had become involved in and contributed to the Draft Plan. He referred to the valuable information and knowledge which had already been attained through the former One Plan process. He felt Derry City and Strabane District Council were to the fore of the other ten Councils in terms of Community Planning and its Strategic Growth Plan.
Councillor Reilly referred to the significant role of the statutory partnerships in assisting Council in terms of delivering on its targets and the need for a new government at Westminster to address the continuous underfunding of frontline services. He referred to the tendency of some statutory partnerships who did not have a policy in terms of targeting specific areas where investment was required most, to seek investment through Invest NI on a Northern Ireland wide basis. He referred to the need for a functioning Executive at Stormont to deliver on the necessary changes. He looked forward to the completion of the formal report.
Councillor Harkin, whilst welcoming the report, did not support suggestions that this Council area was progressing, particularly when Welfare Reform was having such a devastating effect on those most disadvantaged people and the impact of the forthcoming bedroom tax. He pointed out that freezes on wages were also growing particularly in regards to Nursing staff with an ever deteriorating situation for both staff and patients. He acknowledged the good work being carried out by Council whilst facing insurmountable challenges. He referred to a serious deterioration in living standards because of continuous underfunding of public services from Stormont and Westminster. He pointed out that unless there was a massive redistribution of wealth the situation would continue to worsen. Whilst acknowledging the possible expansion of the Magee Campus he pointed out that this was dependant on many variables. He also referred to the under investment in the rail network. He concluded that it was unrealistic to suggest that things were improving and despite the work being carried out there were too many negatives to be ignored.
Councillor Gallagher welcomed the Draft Plan and the inequalities which had been identified and the outcomes which had been delivered. He urged caution in terms of measuring growth and the realistic starting point from where such growth had been achieved. This was particularly relevant if the baseline referred to an area of already high deprivation wherein a true picture was not being reflected. He referred to ongoing austerity particularly with the introduction of Universal Credits and the impact thereof on the most deprived in society. He continued that in order to ensure real growth it would be necessary to identify the fundamental problem which must be addressed and who was responsible for addressing this.
Recommended (a) that the draft Statement of Progress for the Strategic Growth Plan is endorsed and Members welcome the early and substantive progress made across many of its outcomes, indicators and actions; and
(b) that a final Statement of Progress report
will be presented to the Governance and
Strategic Planning Committee in January 2020.