'˜I am now batting for a City Deal for my city'
Willie Hay has said progress has been on the creation of a cross-council support lobby for a '˜City Deal' for Derry.
The former Stormont speaker who now sits in the House of Lords as Lord Hay of Ballyore, believes the roll-out of a ‘City Deal’ in the North West would transform Derry’s prospects.
Speaking in the House of Lords he said he wanted to see the devolution of extra powers and budgets to civic leaders in Derry and Belfast under the ‘City Deal’ concept as soon as possible.
“The Belfast ‘City Deal’ was announced by the Chancellor in last year’s Budget.
“I very much welcome and support it,” he told his fellow peers.
“It is an opportunity for Belfast to grow for the future,” he added.
However, addressing Ian Duncan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in the House of Lords, the former Derry City councillor said his adopted home town must not be left behind.
He thanked the minister for facilitating talks on the matter and told colleagues that he believed progress was being made on a multi-municipal alliance centring on Derry and Strabane that, he hoped, would make a case for a ‘City Deal’ unanswerable.
He said: “I also want to thank the Minister, who met a consortium from Londonderry - an area I have lived in for many years and represent in the Northern Ireland Assembly - led by the local authority and the mayor.
“It was seeking a ‘City Deal’ for Londonderry and the wider north-west community.
“I know that more work needs to be done on that issue, in getting buy-in from other local authorities in the North West, but I believe that work is progressing.
“As others will know, city deals have worked extremely well across the United Kingdom, where they have been implemented and managed with expertise.
“They have been a huge success for inward investment, job creation and economic development.
“So, we welcome the Belfast ‘City Deal’ announced by the Government but I am now batting for a ‘City Deal’ for my region and my city, to build on job creation and economic development there for the future.”
Last year the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, disappointed many in the North West when, in his Budget 2017 speech, he failed to explicitly commit to a ‘City Deal’ for Derry.
Mr. Hammond instead proposed that “upon restoration of a Northern Ireland Executive, the government will open negotiations for a city deal [sic] for Belfast as part of the government’s commitment to work towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals [sic] across Northern Ireland to boost investment and productivity”.