Belfast Telegraph

SDLP to hold British government's 'feet to the fire' over Derry city deal

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said his party will hold the British government's "feet to the fire" over a city deal for Londonderry.

Mr Eastwood said in a meeting with Secretary of State James Brokenshire he had secured backing for the floated project.

"Naturally, we’ll not be taking this positive sentiment from the Secretary of State as a guarantee. The SDLP will be holding the British Government’s feet to the fire to make sure that a city deal for Derry is now fully delivered," he said.

City deals are agreements between central government and cities which gives local regions greater power over decisions impacting their areas.

With the powers cities have greater autonomy over how public money is spent, and can help businesses grow and stimulate economic activity.

The SDLP leader said pressure had grown due to dismay following the announcement in the UK's Budget by Philip Hammond of a potential city deal for Belfast.

Mr Eastwood, who is an MLA for Foyle, said: "I am glad to say that the depth of that anger, and the subsequent pressure applied by the SDLP, does seem to be having the right effect.

He said Mr Brokenshire had told him "plainly" he supported a city deal.

Possible developments flagged by the SDLP leader include expansion of Ulster University's Derry campus, road improvements and investment in services for young people.

"It’s time to finally end the old pattern whereby Derry is always at the heart of Ireland’s history but at the fringe of its economic expansion," he said.

"A city deal for Derry will prove a big help in changing the economic fundamentals, which have held the potential of this city, back for so long. It’s time Derry got its fair share."

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