Talks on Derry ‘City Deal’ within weeks

Derry City.
Derry City.

UK Government officials are to meet with Derry & Strabane Council leaders over the coming weeks to discuss the potential for a ‘City Deal,’ the ‘Journal’ has learned.

A well-placed source confirmed last night that the meeting could take place as early as this side of Christmas.

The meeting follows widespread concerns that Derry could miss out on a City Deal, after discussions on a City Deal for Belfast were confirmed by Chancellor Philip Hammond last week.

A City Deal involves local areas being given specific powers and funding to support economic growth. Such a deal is seen as vital to realising the ambitions set out in Derry & Strabane’s new Strategic Growth Plan, which aims to create 15,000 jobs and transform the prospects and quality of life of local people.

The local council, chamber of commerce and local politicians have repeatedly lobbied for a City of Growth Deal for Derry and Strabane over the past few years.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said yesterday that he had secured a commitment from NI Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, on the delivery of a City Deal for Derry after meeting with him on Monday.

Mr Eastwood said: “I frankly expressed to James Brokenshire this city’s very real anger in the aftermath of the budget that Belfast was once more prioritised and Derry again overlooked.

“At the meeting on Monday, the Secretary of State gave his commitment that the British Government was now in favour of a City Deal in Derry. He told me plainly that he was up for a City Deal in Derry.”

A source told the ‘Journal’ last night: “UK government officials will meet with representatives of Derry City & Strabane District Council over the next few weeks to discuss the potential of a City Deal in more detail.”

A UK Government spokesperson, meanwhile, said: “The Chancellor in his Budget statement set out the way forward for a comprehensive and ambitious series of City Deals across N. Ireland, with negotiations to begin for a deal for the Belfast region. We have seen elsewhere in the UK how City Deals boost investment and productivity, so it is right that this work is taken forward in N. Ireland too.

“But we are clear that it must be cities in N. Ireland themselves to bring forward proposals for consideration. So as well as engaging with partners in the Belfast region, we want to work with other councils across Northern Ireland to see how we can develop plans more broadly.”