BTP has received information from both the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment that suggests a ‘City Deal’ for the North West is not a priority for the NI Executive.
City Deals were launched by the then coalition Government in December 2011 to give cities more autononomy on issues such as local revenue raising, in exchange for more accountability locally. Wave 1 of City Deals included ‘Core Cities’ outside London and gave them powers to enhance local resources for economic decelopment. Wave 2 of the initiative saw cities applying for the status of a City Deal by outlining their response to a serious local economic problem with the powers they would be granted.
In March of 2014, a surprise announcement from the Chancellor created NI’s first Enterprise Zone – in Coleraine. As part of Budget 2015, the Chancellor announced that a City Deal on infrastructure worth £1bn for Cardiff was being negotiated- therefore the policy is very much alive.
In a response from OFMDFM on 30 September, it was revealed that no correspondence has been sent by or received by the Department on the issue, that briefings on the issue for the Minister was ‘not held’ and any minutes of meetings on the topic by the Department were ‘not held’ – suggesting that there are no briefings and there have been no meetings.
A further FOI response from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment included a briefing to the Minister on the issue prior to a meeting with Foyle elected representatives and includes as part of it a section entitled ‘lines to take on City deals’. one line in this section states “it is not apparent thatthere would be any benefit in the City Deals initiative being extended to Northern.”. This raises questions, given in the same FOI response, the Minister is informed that “the December 2014 Stormont Castle Agreement states that ‘the Executive Party Leaders would wish to develop options with the Treasury on the lines of city deals and growth cities as well as further Enterprise Zones.'”
Given the economic disparity between the East and West of the region, and campaigns from political parties calling for a City Deal for Derry/Londonderry, it is concerning that the Executive have not yet prioritised this issue.