Video: We'll deliver ‘City Deal’ and seek devolution of extra council power pledges Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wants more powers devolved to local councils and the maximisation of a ‘City Deal’ to improve Derry’s societal and economic prospects.
Speaking at the launch of the SDLP’s manifesto ahead of council elections on Thursday Mr. Eastwood said a ‘City Deal’ was one way local government could deliver real change.
“Top of the agenda for this city is a ‘City Deal’ for Derry. This is a campaign that we in the SDLP have been running for a long, long time, on our own for most of that time, but now we have broad political support. I think we will achieve it,” said the Foyle MLA.
Mr. Eastwood promised to back up the SDLP’s manifesto pledge to push for the devolution of further powers to the Council - including responsibility for regeneration so that “people can be more involved in setting their own vision for what their community should look like in five, 10 or 20 years.”
Planning, community planning and regeneration should each be “strings in one bow” and utilised at Local Government level to “transform local places”, according to the SDLP leader.
“There are still major blockages in the planning system. That’s why we are calling for a dedicated housing planning officer in each and every council so that we can begin to unblock some of that backlog,” he said.
Mr. Eastwood said that, five years after the Local Government Act (NI) 2014 cut the number of councils from 26 to 11 and gave local authorities greater powers, a review of the new system’s operation is needed
“We also need to add new powers.
“It’s no good having planning powers when you don’t have regeneration powers as well. We need to empower the people who are actually at work fighting for their local communities,” he said.
The manifesto suggests the “review should consider ‘crisis-proofing’ Local Government so that, in the absence of an Assembly or Executive, effective decision making can continue at a local level”.
The SDLP have promised to establish a Brexit Committee on the new council and to use locally available powers and influence to deliver better health and education services and rights for citizens, tackle homelessness and try to reverse the damaging impact of welfare reform.
“The underyling problems in our community are really about poverty, they are about hopelessness, they are about lack of opportunity but whilst we haven’t had a government there are over 80,000 people now waiting on a hospital bed. There are 34,000 people who next year are going to be hit with a bill for the bedroom tax.”