Belfast Telegraph

From economic darkness to a city of blinding lights

All six parties represented on Belfast City Council have come together to unveil an ambitious £150m investment package

Belfast City Council recognises that many of our citizens are facing huge challenges in the face of the current economic downturn; business conditions are tough and unemployment levels are rising.

As political leaders, we see these challenges every day in our communities and recognise that there is a responsibility on us to respond by promoting business, creating employment opportunities and supporting the most-vulnerable communities in Belfast.

That’s the rationale behind the creation of a £150m investment package through which we set out our contribution to tackling the economic challenges the city is facing.

Through this initiative, we will invest £75m towards facilities for local communities and a further £75m to support major partnership projects, local regeneration and key sectors, such as tourism and digital technology.

The ambitious three-year programme will see a £20m extension to the Waterfront Hall to cater for the lucrative business tourism market. We will also create a green economy business park on the north foreshore and bid for £10m from Chancellor George Osborne’s recently-announced fund to introduce super-connected broadband across the city.

Investment in community facilities will include a range of 3G floodlit pitches, new changing facilities and playgrounds, large-scale upgrades to Dunville and Woodvale parks and a major refurbishment of the Mary Peters track, which will provide a new eight lane track capable of hosting international events.

Following the success of the MTV Europe Awards, we are also investing £8m in bringing new events to our city.

Along with our partners at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Titanic Belfast, we are hosting international-scale events to mark the centenary of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage.

MTV will return for a concert on the slipways, a spectacular light-show, a series of commemorative events and a newly-commissioned drama to be performed at the stunning MAC building in Cathedral Quarter.

We will also welcome the World Irish Dancing championships, the World Fire and Police Games in 2013 and the spectacular Tall Ships back for a return visit in 2015.

All told, this £150m capital investment in the city’s facilities over the next three years will help the hard-pressed construction industry and provide much-needed employment opportunities.

Belfast City Council itself is committed to providing 200 job opportunities and 400 placements for apprentices, interns and work experience over this period at no extra cost to the ratepayer.

We have worked hard to reduce the running costs of the council, absorbed the cost of inflation and kept them at zero for the coming year.

All of the 2.6% rate increase will be used to fund the investment package and we will continue our |efficiency programme reaching £20m of cash savings by 2015.

We are also committing to increasing the amount we spend on local procurement by 10%, making a total of £60m which will be invested in local goods and services.

We recognise many people need extra assistance to help them cope with economic problems so we have agreed to spend £2.4m on providing advice and support services.

We have also created a local investment fund of £5m to encourage local communities to come up with ideas on how to improve their neighbourhoods and help turn these ideas into delivery on the ground.

We are confident that the energy and innovation of all the people of our great city will help us achieve a successful and inclusive future.

Our investment package demonstrates the efforts we will make to help and we look forward to working with everyone in taking it forward.

Cllr Jim McVeigh (SF)|Ald Robin Newton (DUP)|Cllr Tim Attwood (SDLP)|Cllr Maire Hendron (All)|Ald Davy Browne (UUP)|Ald Hugh Smyth (PUP)

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