Belfast Telegraph

Derry unemployment double the average for Northern Ireland

By Donna Deeney

The rate of people claiming unemployment benefits in Londonderry is twice as high as the Northern Ireland average, new figures show.

The figure for Derry in October was 6.7% of the working age population — far above the Northern Ireland average of 3.4%, according to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

The grim figure comes as Invista announced proposals to cut 48 jobs from its plant in Maydown and around 60 jobs at the tax office in Derry are to be centralised to Belfast.

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan met with the management of Invista — part of the Du Pont company which has had a presence in Derry for over 50 years.

Mr Durkan said: “News that Invista are seeking voluntary redundancies is a further blow to what is left of the textile manufacturing tradition in this city.

“It is disappointing for everyone that market conditions have forced this sorry decision.”

Mr Durkan was also critical of the Treasury’s decision to close local tax offices in Northern Ireland by 2021 — including Foyle House in Derry.

Announcing the closure of its local tax offices, a spokesman for the Treasury said: “HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices.

“This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.

“The new regional centre in Belfast will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in an area with lower rent.

“It will also make a big contribution to the economy of Northern Ireland, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s commitment to a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.”

Mr Durkan said: “This new announcement on top of the recent job-losing restructuring will be greeted by anger and cynicism.

“There are many performance challenges for the due and efficient collection of all tax which will not be dealt with by the contraction of the Revenue and Customs service and its concentration in fewer locations.

“Yet again we have a move which shows contempt for good staff, for local customers and for the regional economy.

The chief executive of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said that while there was a welcome decrease in the number of people from Derry seeking unemployment benefit last month, there was still a very obvious gap between the rate in the Foyle area and the rest of the Northern Ireland average.

Sinead McLaughlin said: “The Executive needs to stop talking and get more proactive instead of the crisis management we see now.

“There are real things that can be done, particularly in the North West there needs to be proper infrastructure and the Executive needs to look at energy costs and other sources of energy as well.”

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