The Chair referred to an invitation to the Economy Minister, Diane Dodds to meet with Committee to discuss the Department adopting a regional approach in terms of funding allocations because DCSDC had the highest economic inactivity. He expressed concern that the Minister had not accepted the request to attend however she had indicated that her Officials would be in attendance. He confirmed that no Officials were in attendance and expressed his disappointment.
The Director of Business and Culture advised that officials from Invest NI were available to present today, however due to the unavailability of Senior Officials from the Department of the Economy it was decided to wait until next month for representation. He further advised that Invest NI had proposed to present with the University of Ulster and the North West Regional College jointly. However, it was his understanding that this was not what Members had expected, as they were fully aware of the joint initiatives and the purpose was more about what was being achieved in order to address the regional balance rather than a repeat of what was presented previously.
He acknowledged that there had been job announces and successes by Invest NI, however it was imperative that Officials attended to report on
progress from a regional perspective.
The Chair requested Members to decide whether they would prefer that Invest NI Officials attended the next Committee Meeting alone or together with Officials from the Department of Economy and the University.
Councillor Cooper expressed the party view that it would be preferable that Invest NI Officials attended separately in order to present concrete proposals in line with a regional perspective. He added that the skills agenda in collaboration with the Universities was a totally separate issue. He further added that it was essential for Committee to meet with the Economy Minister in order to address the wider economic issue of policy change at a sub-regional level.
Councillor Ferguson agreed with the previous speaker’s comments. She stated that it was not necessary to hear a repeat of skills development by the Universities. Members were entitled to know what had been progressed by Invest NI since the previous meeting.
Councillor Cusack concurred with previous speakers and added that whilst education and skills development were massive issues, Invest NI were a separate institution and needed to be scrutinised on that basis.
Councillor McCloskey agreed that Invest NI and the University had separate remits and it was therefore essential that 2 separate discussions be co-ordinated.
Alderman Ramsey agreed with the previous speaker’s views in terms of separate agendas. He said that the economic impact of Covid-19 exacerbated the issues that already existed, and it was therefore essential that discussions take place with Invest NI and the Department for Economy as soon as possible.
Discussion ensued, after which the consensus was for Officials from Invest NI and the Department for Economy to be invited to present to Committee meeting in November to discuss progress at a sub-regional level. It was also agreed for Officials from Invest NI, North West Regional College and the University of Ulster to be invited to the Committee Meeting next month to give an update on skills development.