Belfast enjoys 11 times the cash benefits of Ards area
Belfast attracts 11 times as much Invest NI funding for home-grown firms as the least-funded area in the province, research has revealed.
Data Detail scrutinised 6,653 offers made by Invest NI to home-grown firms over a three-and-a-half year period.
And its findings show disparities between geographical areas.
Ards receives the lowest assistance per head and gets funding of £33.24; Moyle gets £34.20; Derry £105; Ballymena £169; Cookstown £240, with Belfast on top with £452 per head.
SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone claimed the figures showed that DUP ministers had "failed to spread" the potential to generate wealth across the province.
"In the last three-and-a-half years, over 80% of funding offers for indigenous businesses have been made to those in the east.
"This comes despite the well documented historic under-investment in communities west of the Bann, where villages and towns teeter on the brink of instability.
"This is not acceptable and highlights the abject failure of successive DUP ministers to spread the wealth-generating potential of the north across all those living here."
Jim Allister, TUV leader and MLA for North Antrim - a constituency which is due to lose over 1,500 jobs in the next two years thanks to the withdrawal of foreign firms Michelin and JTI from Ballymena - said he had "long maintained" that Invest NI "neglected" areas outside greater Belfast.
"These figures confirm the raw deal that the Ballymoney and Moyle areas, in particular, of my constituency have been getting.
"In Belfast the spend per head of population was £452, Ballymoney a mere £62, and in Moyle a derisory £34.
"When I factor in that in the last five years North Antrim has only had eight foreign direct investment visits in total, then it is clear to me that Invest NI is catastrophically failing North Antrim, where so many jobs have been lost recently."
However, a spokeswoman for Invest NI said that the allocation of funding depends on the location of businesses, and that firms had to proactively contact the body for support.
"Sixty-five per cent of businesses are located in the east and we can't change that.
"A business comes to us to ask us for support. We don't allocate or assign our budget to areas - business has to come to us with a business case."
And businesses had to be "export-focused" as Invest NI had assessed such companies as those which had the most potential for growth, as they had access to bigger markets.
Alliance Party Ards and North Down councillor Kellie Armstrong said: "I am surprised that the funding level in Ards is so low.
"Since the construction sector failed we have seen a number of new business-starts in the area, but these may be more to serve the local market and sectors such as tourism."