Invest NI hit by funds row
MLA slams ‘stark contrast’ between Derry and Belfast
Invest NI has been accused of directing a disproportionate level of funding to Belfast — at the expense of north west firms.
SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood said the latest figures detailing financial help by the development agency to Londonderry and Belfast show a large discrepancy between the cities.
The figures state that the financial year 2010/11, Invest NI offered Derry firms £2.58m — 2.4% of the spend in Ulster.
Meanwhile, east Belfast companies were offered £28.09m — 26.1% of the total funding — during the same financial period.
Mr Eastwood said the broader picture is that Invest NI's ability to attract investment into the north west needs to be rapidly improved.
He said: “Statistics are often accused of being misleading, but I think it is fair to conclude that the stark contrast between these numbers must surely intimate an uncomfortable truth.
“Derry is not receiving anywhere near the monetary assistance it needs to attract inward investment or to grow its indigenous economy.
“Invest NI will undoubtedly put forward the case that the contrast between the monetary assistance offered is a result of the concentration of foreign direct investment (FDI) jobs within, for
instance, the east Belfast constituency.
“In other words, east Belfast is in receipt of greater financial assistance because the category and variety of job is very different from those located in Derry.
“This argument only acts, however, to further highlight the need to ensure that such FDI companies are incentivised to locate their operations in neglected regions such as the north west.”
Mr Eastwood added: “I am not naive enough to place the blame for these figures solely at the feet of Invest NI.”
An Invest NI spokeswoman said budgets aren’t allocated “by geographic areas such as Parliamentary constituencies” and there is limited scope for direct investment.
She said: “Support for projects are demand-led and can only be considered where a company has brought forward a viable business plan.
“Ultimately it is the investor who decides where to locate their investment project, not Invest NI.
“Their decision is based on a number of factors, including if there is an existing company location, the skills base, access to transport links, or infrastructure, such as availability of property.
“Many of these factors are outside of Invest NI’s control, but Invest NI is committed to working with local stakeholders to support investment in all regions.”