Belfast Telegraph

Barbs hit home for McGuinness in 'job losses' row

By DONNA DEENEY

The Deputy First Minister has been accused of failing his home city after a political row was sparked in Londonderry by the creation of 1,000 jobs in Belfast.

Stream International announced this week that 1,000 call centre jobs were being created in east Belfast with Government assistance of £3.3m.

But the news was overshadowed by the fact that the same company shut up shop in Derry two years ago with the loss of around 1,000 jobs.

In 2000 Stream was offered £2.3m in Government subsidies, but in spite of the aid it began reducing the workforce in 2009.

By 2011 all of the 1,000 workers had been sent to the dole queue.

In the wake of the Stream announcement, SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood launched a scathing attack and slammed the decision to give millions to Stream.

Invest NI has denied that Stream had simply moved the 1,000 jobs from one city to the other while pocketing Government funds. It said the decisions to close in Derry and open in Belfast two years later were unrelated, but followed Stream's acquisition of LBM Direct Marketing.

It is understood the expansion by LBM had been on the cards for 18 months and was then steered by Stream after it acquired LBM.

But Mr Eastwood dismissed this and added: "I have read the remarks from Invest NI that these are different jobs and that jobs haven't been moved to Belfast.

"This will sound like empty rhetoric to the families in Derry that were devastated by the job losses in 2011.

"The Deputy First Minister must explain why £3m of public money has been used to allow a company, which closed their Derry office in 2011, to reopen in Belfast in 2013. The people of Derry will be rightly angered hearing that Stream are creating 1,000 jobs in Belfast just two years after making 1,000 people redundant in Derry. Serious questions need to be asked of our 'resident' Deputy First Minister."

When contacted, a spokeswoman for OFMDFM said Mr McGuinness was not available for comment, but a spokeswoman for Invest NI said it was "incorrect and misleading to suggest that these are the same jobs".

She added: "Invest NI secured the project through negotiations with LBM to locate this project in Belfast to meet the specific needs of its clients."

Invest NI has been criticised before for a perceived lack of north west investment. Earlier this year, Sinn Fein said just 6% of overseas jobs created in Northern Ireland came to the region.

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