Executive not realising economic potential of cities
Belfast City Council has shown great ambition and ability to attract external financing and utilise our financial freedoms and borrowing powers to bring forward a physical investment programme worth more than £400m. We have also developed a £18.77m city centre investment fund to incentivise private sector investment.
For too long, Belfast has been beholden to a regional development model that fails to recognise the importance of the city to the economy of the wider region and allow the relevant policy flexibility to develop local approaches that will enhance that contribution.
Given that 61% of UK growth is generated by city regions, the RSA City Growth Commission has said: "Cities across the UK (and it includes Belfast) need to be empowered to unleash their creativity and innovation potential, improve their connectivity and boost their productivity."
The promised powers of planning, community planning and regeneration, together would have given Belfast the opportunity to take greater control of our economic destiny. Planning and community planning were devolved in April 2015 and we awaited confirmation of the transfer of regeneration in 2016.
But, yet again, the Executive has missed a golden opportunity. The DSD minister has said: "It is not the right time to go ahead with transfer of regeneration powers."
So, just as we are on the cusp of redesigning our city with the aim of inclusive economic growth, driven by the private sector, better connectivity and improved cohesion, DSD and the Executive tie one arm behind our back.
We must not miss the major funding potential of city deals for Derry and Belfast which have been led by Mark Durkan MP in Westminster and the SDLP in Belfast. It is time for a city deal for Belfast and Derry.
CLLR TIM ATTWOOD (SDLP)
Belfast City Council