Invest NI responds to 'beyond ridiculous' claim over Derry & Strabane jobs support

Invest NI has responded to criticism from Derry reps that it only supported the creation of 67 jobs in Derry & Strabane in the past financial year in comparison to 1,657 in the Belfast City Council area.
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SDLP councillor Rory Farrell cited the statistics at the monthly meeting of the Business and Culture Committee and he along with several other members were vocal in their criticism of Invest NI with the job figures described as ‘beyond ridiculous’.

Invest NI, responding, said in the last five years, it has supported over 320 businesses in the Derry City and Strabane area, helping secure nearly 1,800 new jobs and which it says will result in over £232m investment in the region’s economy. It also aid support and investment per head of capita here was very close to the NI average.

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Councillor Rory Farrell had previously requested that Invest NI bring a delegation to discuss the creation of jobs and businesses.

 SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell. DER1319GS-031 SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell. DER1319GS-031
SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell. DER1319GS-031

He said: “I understand a meeting hasn’t been scheduled as yet but I’ve been doing a bit of digging and this isn’t something Invest NI publish or they don’t issue a press release about it: In the last financial year across Derry and Strabane Invest NI supported the creation of 67 jobs. If we look at Belfast City Council they supported the creation of 1,657 jobs. So for every job they supported in Derry and Strabane they supported 25 in Belfast.

“If we look at the 11 councils across the North, Derry and Strabane is the third lowest, Mid and East Antrim and Ards and North Down are the only two councils that have lower job creation figures than this council area.

“If we look at the 3,000 jobs that were created across the North last year, 2% were in our council area and 98% were elsewhere.

“It’s getting beyond ridiculous at this stage and we need Invest NI to come to this committee to tell us what they are going to do to support job creation, to support local businesses and to pump investment into this city and district because what they are doing now isn’t working.”

People Before Profit councillor Shaun Harkin called Invest NI’s job creation figures a ‘slap in the face’.

He said: “We should absolutely demand that they come in here and give us some explanations and answers. There needs to be a radical departure from their strategy as it exists right now and as we have said before there needs to be a dedicated office here geared to good job creation here in Derry and the North West.”

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UUP Alderman Derek Hussey claimed: “One of the things Invest NI ignores is the skill pool that is relevant to our area and exists in Donegal.”

"There are skills there that would enable firms to come to Derry City and Strabane and set up and thereby increase the job opportunities for people in our own area.”

Calling for the DUP to ‘get back to work’, and changes within the Department of Economy, Sinn Féin councillor Conor Heaney said: “The figures councillor Farrell has quoted are yet another example of the systemic failure.”

"There is a policy focus that is totally geared in one direction only, an unwritten Belfast first policy and here we see it yet again,” he claimed.

An Invest NI spokesperson responded: "Our support is demand-led and depends on businesses bringing forward growth projects, regardless of location.

"In the last five years, we have supported over 320 businesses in the Derry City and Strabane DC area, helping secure nearly 1,800 new jobs and which will result in over £232m investment in the region’s economy. The rates of assistance and investment per head in the area were similar to the Northern Ireland average. £342 of assistance was offered and £1,963 invested per head of adult population within the area, compared to the Northern Ireland figure of £356 assistance and £2,014 investment per head.

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“Every £1 of assistance offered to businesses in the past 5 years contributed to £6 of investment in the Derry City & Strabane council area.

"Northern Ireland is a relatively small place and evidence indicates that many businesses draw their workforce from areas beyond constituency and council area boundaries.

"Over the last 5 years, almost 73% of the offers we made were to businesses outside Belfast, or to projects that have the potential to impact on multiple locations throughout Northern Ireland. 60% of total investment, company and Invest NI support combined, and nearly 57% of new jobs were also outside Belfast."

Gillian Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter & Brendan McDaid