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North-west is being neglected for jobs and investment, claims Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin

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Scandal: Sinead McLaughlin

Scandal: Sinead McLaughlin

Scandal: Sinead McLaughlin

Not enough new jobs from inward investors are being targeted towards Londonderry and the north-west, it's been claimed.

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin spoke after an answer to an Assembly question posed to the Department for Economy showed that over three years to 2020, 2,406 jobs from new inward investors had been located in the Belfast City Council area.

However, just 517 had been located in or scheduled for other parts of Northern Ireland, with the location of 428 new jobs from inward investors yet to be determined.

Ms McLaughlin said that the figure meant that out of new jobs with a known location over the past three years, 82% had been sited in Belfast, which has 18% of Northern Ireland's population.

She claimed there was a focus on Belfast, with other regions being neglected.

"The focus on Belfast at the expense of all other parts of Northern Ireland is an absolute disgrace and a scandal.

"Jobs and investment must be spread across all of Northern Ireland. At present they are overwhelmingly skewed towards Belfast. This must change."

And she urged the new Economic Advisory Group - which has been reformed to advise the Economy Minister on how to help the economy recover from Covid-19 - to focus on spreading investment.

"I will keep pushing for this," she said.

But a spokeswoman for economic development agency Invest NI said patterns of inward investment reflected just a small proportion of investment in a region.

"This narrative is completely ignoring investment by locally owned companies, and expansions by externally owned investors.

"Over the last five years, investment secured per head of population in Derry & Strabane District Council area is 30% above the NI total (£2,564 per head, compared to £1,974 for NI).

"Our assistance to the local and externally owned companies during this period has totalled £54m, securing over £300m of investment in the area, which will help create nearly 2,600 jobs.

"In addition we provided a further £1.06m of funding to Derry & Strabane DC for Local Economic Development initiatives."

And she said that there was "no bias to any one area when attracting investment to Northern Ireland".

"An investor will choose where to locate its business based on many different factors.

"These decisions are commercially driven and are not influenced by Invest NI.

"Furthermore, a new investor may also choose to locate its initial investment in one area, such as Belfast, but then expand into another area. Recent examples of this, with expansions into Derry & Strabane DC, include Terex, FinTru, Allstate and Danske Bank, creating hundreds of new jobs in the area."

Belfast Telegraph