SDLP Foyle Westminster candidate Mark Durkan has welcomed the launch of a new report by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) - ‘Retail First’ - which embraces the ‘City Deal’ concept he has been championing for Derry.
Mr Durkan, a speaker at the official launch of the report in Belfast which sets out NIIRTA’s policy priorities for the new Westminster parliament, said:
“I am particularly delighted to see that one of the key ideas NIIRTA is putting real drive behind and have included in their ‘Retail First’ report is the concept of City Deals – which I have been championing for Derry.
“I have been arguing for quite some time that here in the North we were sleeping in on the example and the model of City Deals, just like, for a number of years, we slept in on the concept of Enterprise Zones.
“We would ask Treasury Ministers for Enterprise Zones here – including for Derry – and would be told ‘Yes, if we get proposals from the Executive’.
“We would then ask in the Assembly if we could apply for Enterprise Zones and would be told “No, we’re not interested in them because they would distract from getting Corporation Tax.”
“This is nonsense! We could go for both Enterprise Zones and Corporation Tax.
“We eventually ended up with a single Enterprise Zone in Coleraine last year.
“We are now being told that we don’t need City Deals – that it’s okay in England but that we have devolution here and that’s better. Once again, this is nonsense.
“Scotland is doing City Deals.
“There is a City Deal in Glasgow and there are City Deals coming forward now in Aberdeen and Inverness – so the argument that it’s just for big cities likes Manchester and Glasgow and not for the kind of cities and towns we have here – including Derry – doesn’t apply either.”
Mr. Durkan went on to say: “I therefore firmly believe that a City Deal model tailored to our own specific purposes in Derry would allow us to grow into the future and can work.
“If we can take control over our own future we will deliver the better, more prosperous Derry we all want to see.
“A new ‘City Deal’ would also put the driving power for Derry’s future in Derry’s hands.
“It could help us to cut through the frustration that we have voiced locally over the delivery of the One Plan and would allow both ourselves and everyone in regional government to get behind something which is happening and working elsewhere.
“NIIRTA’s new report recommends that five local cities – Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Newry and Lisburn apply for City Deal status by 2020.”