Belfast Telegraph

Three rural Northern Ireland councils join forces in Budget plea to Hammond for growth deal

By Emma Deighan

Three councils have called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to deliver a growth deal for the south and west of Northern Ireland ahead of today's Budget.

With Belfast and eastern councils as well as Derry City and Strabane District Council, heavily lobbying the Treasury for region deals, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council have together announced their own joint bid.

The councils, which together represent over 25% of the population here, have written to the Chancellor saying a growth deal would address specific economic needs in the area.

They have agreed to work together to "develop a strategic economic plan focused on improving productivity; creating more and better jobs; addressing economic infrastructure; growing investment; supporting business innovation and improving skills".

The call for a growth deal is aligned with the Chancellor's statement in 2017.

It laid out the Government's plan to "work toward a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals" in Northern Ireland.

The three councils said a bespoke deal for the region would sit alongside the proposals being developed for a Belfast Region City Deal and a Derry City Deal.

They said a growth deal will help grow an already strong economy in the region, which is home to a third of the local business community, providing more than 200,000 jobs.

Julie Flaherty, who is Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said: "By joining up the three council areas, we can hopefully leverage a growth deal which allows us all to put in place the structures we need to allow our companies to grow, to encourage entrepreneurialism and to put in place interventions for economic growth."

Howard Thornton, chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, welcomed the opportunity to work alongside partner councils to "engage with Government on the detail of developing and successfully delivering an economic plan and a growth deal for our three council areas in partnership with the administrations in Stormont and Westminster."

Meanwhile, Sean McPeake, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said: "We believe there is much to be gained from this cohesive, joined-up approach, which has the common goal of making our collective council areas and the wider region stronger, both economically and socially."

Belfast Telegraph

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