Belfast Telegraph

Ratepayer picks up £60k bill as seven Belfast council officials fly to French Riviera on global trade mission but they'll stay in modest two-star hotel

By John Mulgrew

Belfast City Council has forked out £60,000 of ratepayers' money to send seven representatives to a global trade show on the French Riviera.

They are involved in a joint public/private sector trade mission to Cannes for MIPIM - one of the world's biggest property expos - in a bid to attract major investors to the city.

The seven, part of a 50-strong delegation, are staying at the two-star Hotel Esperanto in the resort town for five nights.

The rest of the funding for the trip came from the 30 local businesses involved.

It is the first time Belfast has sent a delegation to the expo since the banking crisis.

Those participating include McAleer and Rushe, as well as other major local developers.

The aim of the trip is to attract £1 billion of investment to Belfast over the next five years and the creation of 30,000 jobs.

A spokeswoman for City Hall said it planned 15 events over the five days and will heavily promote the province's 12.5% corporation tax rate, which comes into effect in two years.

Speaking ahead of the trip Jackie Henry, a senior partner at Deloitte, said: "I think that we are clear and realistic.

"It's a great platform and a busy platform.

"This is the year to take Belfast out.

"There are 2,000 investors and developers out there.

"We would like a harder pipeline of investment.

"Realistically, it's about those relationships."

Ms Henry was asked whether she thought the trip was a good way to spend public money.

She replied: "The interesting thing is that two-thirds is being funded by business and the private sector.

"The private sector is doing the heavy lifting on this one, and we are happy to do that."

Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie was equally positive.

She said: "Belfast's reputation as a leading hub for foreign direct investment and technology, alongside our world-class pool of talent, our low rate of corporation tax from April 2018 and a wealth of other opportunities for international investors, means that the city's attractiveness as a place to invest is only going to grow.

"We believe that a target of £1bn of investment and the creation of tens of thousands of jobs is within our reach.

"We can transform the city and move it on to a new level to be competitive on a global stage.

"The council is committed to its partnership with the private sector to make this work.

We want to encourage, facilitate and deliver.

"We want to play our part in transforming this city to put it where it deserves to be."

Belfast Telegraph