London’s ‘City Deal’ minister, James Brokenshire, has said he genuinely wants to see Derry’s bid progress and has acknowledged the growing momentum behind the proposal in the city following a meeting in the Guildhall on Tuesday.
“I very firmly want to see a ‘City Deal’ here for the Derry/Londonderry city region as well as for other parts of Northern Ireland but I’m certainly coming away today with a very real sense of purpose and of forward momentum now that we’re able to move things forward and see this becoming a reality,” said the UK Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Communities.
Mr. Brokenshire was received by a party led by the Deputy Mayor, Alderman Derek Hussey, Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Director of Business and Culture, Stephen Gillespie, and the city’s Lead Finance Officer Alfie Dallas.
Also present for the talks were Dr. Malachy O’Neill, the Provost of Magee College, Leo Murphy, the Chief Executive of the North West Regional College, Jennifer McKeever, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and Elisha McCallion, MP, and Colum Eastwood MLA, among others.
Mr. Brokenshire said it was a positive session during which “some of the technical issues on the way we can see this advanced” were discussed.
It’s expected Derry’s ‘City Deal’ application will lean heavily on the local authority’s 2017 Strategic Growth Plan, which aims to increase the number of jobs in the city from 61,100 to 75,600 by 2032.
It’s projected this will add £500m to the local economy with the A2, A5 and A6, the development of Magee and the NWRC, and a North West Enterprise Zone, seen as key catalyst projects.
Mr. Brokenshire said mature ‘City Deals’ in Britain where Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) between local governments and businesses have accessed hundreds of millions of pounds from Local Growth Funds may provide a template for the North.
“There have been ‘City Deals’ that you will have seen in other parts of the UK.
"I think that they provide that road map, that precedent, as to what can be achieved, bringing together partners from government, from the devolved administration, from local government, from the private sector and the university sector too, and actually how that invests in innovation, in infrastructure, to actually make that difference and harnessing all of those different parts together to unlock opportunity to unlock growth and to unlock jobs,” he said.
He said he was impressed by the “unanimity of purpose from all of the local partners today” but declared it was now time for DC&SDC to submit a bid.
“We now need to move from that vision into a formal submission. Obviously we need to see a proposal and getting to make that happen.”
Mr. Brokenshire was unable to set a date, however, for when a ‘City Deal’ might eventually be established in the North West.
“That all depends on the further submission of detailed information from Derry/Londonderry and that, I know, is advancing. It’s about keeping the discussion and the dialogue going.”