MLA concerned over Invest NI spend

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A Derry MLA has expressed serious concern after learning just 2% of Invest NI’s total spend supported companies in the city last year.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood says figures he received this week will also “be a major concern to the people of this city.”

“The latest figures I have received from Invest NI, covering the 2010/11 financial year, show a massive discrepancy between the monetary assistance offered by Invest NI for the creation and maintenance of jobs in the North.

“The headline figure which will be a major concern to the people of this city shows that Derry companies were offered just £2.58 million in assistance.

“This amounted to just 2.4% of the total spend across the North,” he says.

Mr Eastwood says that over the same time period East Belfast businesses were offered in excess of £28 million - more than a quarter of Invest NI’s total spend last year.

“Statistics are often accused of being misleading but I think it is fair to conclude that the stark contrast between these numbers must surely intimate an uncomfortable truth.

“Derry is not receiving anywhere near the monetary assistance it needs to attract inward investment or to grow its indigenous economy.

“I am, however, not naive enough to place the blame for these figures solely at the feet of Invest NI,” he says.

The Derry MLA says the onus is now on Stormont to make Derry’s regeneration a priority.

“As I have highlighted over the last number of weeks, if the Executive fails to provide priority for Derry then it is unsurprising that agencies of departments follow suit.

“The fact that Derry’s regeneration was not even mentioned in the draft Programme for Government highlighted a worrying culture, a culture we had hoped would dissolve following the bedding down of the institutions at Stormont.”

He says the figures would indicate that this dissolution is clearly not happening.

“In its absence it is right and proper that bodies such as Invest NI are challenged on specifics, and that the Executive’s priorities towards the North West are challenged generally,” he says.

A spokeswoman for Invest NI says the north’s economic development body “does not allocate budgets by geographic areas such as Parliamentary Constituencies and has limited scope to direct investment.”

“Support for projects are demand-led and can only be considered where a company has brought forward a viable business plan.

“Invest NI is committed to working in partnership with local stakeholders to support and encourage investment in all regions,” she says.