17/11/2016

Belfast City Council Launches City Growth Deal Bid In London

Belfast City Council has announced the launch of a major bid for a "game changing" City Growth Deal.

Representatives of five political parties and Chief Executive, Suzanne Wylie, were joined by all four Belfast MPs at the House of Commons in London. A number of senior political figures, former Secretaries of States and NIO Ministers, as well as, business leaders and investors were also at the event.

The Westminster session addressed how the Council would develop an action plan to secure a City Deal for Belfast which would support its already ambitious plans of boosting the economy, creating jobs and ensuring economic growth reaches all areas including disadvantaged communities. It focused on what would be Belfast's next big opportunity and what needed to be changed to accelerate growth.

Opening the discussion at the House of Commons, Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council, said: "Belfast has always had distinguished history as a pioneering city – it now needs to take its place as a modern, international city that can successfully compete with others in global trade networks.

"Just like Manchester and Glasgow, we need to champion Belfast to have more powers to grow and prosper, to attract investors whilst also improving the lives of everyone in the city.

"Belfast certainly has the assets, the opportunity and the political will to implement a radical agenda for change that will transform the lives of those living in the city and further afield."
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Areas of discussion - led by Belfast MPs' Nigel Dodds, Paul Maskey, Alasdair McDonnell and Gavin Robinson - included regeneration and place-making powers and how a single regeneration body at a city level enabled better place-making decision-making with investors wanting one point of contact – otherwise they may invest elsewhere in a globally competitive market.

Through a Growth Deal, it was also deemed critical that targeted skills and employment support be available for young people, vulnerable residents and those furthest from the labour market. Belfast also needed to engage more with its indigenous businesses to support skills and innovation and help local SMEs in developing and exporting high-value products. 

Transport integration was further focused on and how an integrated transport hub in the city was critical to decreasing congestion and leading to more people using public transport as well as transport connections with Dublin being paramount to maximise the Economic Corridor between Belfast, Newry and Dublin and onwards to L'Derry.

Belfast also needed to look at alternative financing platforms with potential for a formal finance/performance-based partnership between Councils, the Executive and the Treasury. This could include the ability to use innovative financing mechanisms available in other cities such as Land Value Capture or earn-back rates growth schemes. Councils may also be able to borrow more and co-invest in regeneration schemes over a longer period.

(MH/CD)

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