The Executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) will meet in the Guildhall in Derry-Londonderry today. The meeting will include input from the 11 Councils, the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and the Department for Communities.
Taking place at a vital time during the Brexit process, the NILGA Executive, which consists of nominated elected representatives from each of the five main parties, will explore key issues, including Brexit, the future Peace Plus Funding Programme and City Deals.
Last month, a delegation from NILGA, representing the 11 Councils, undertook a fact-finding visit to Wales to examine and bring back learning from the City and Growth deals across Wales.
The Executive will explore the findings from the visit and the important role that local government has to play in developing and delivering City Deals in Northern Ireland, especially in the context of the North West region and Belfast, and the increased role councils could play in the delivery of the £3.5 billion Shared Prosperity Fund proposal emanating from Westminster.
As part of the meeting, the Executive will engage with the Chief Executive of SEUPB, Gina McIntyre, around the issues of Brexit and a post 2020 Peace Plus Funding Programme, which would incorporate elements of the former Peace and Interreg funds on a cross-border basis.
In the absence of a functioning Assembly and Executive, and with councils remaining the only form of local government fully functioning at present, this year NILGA has also convened a new political forum, with MLAs and Councillors drawn from all five main political parties. The forum has met twice since April and is a focused attempt to develop proper political scrutiny at local level of public sector spending and policy development.
Derek McCallan, Chief Executive of NILGA said:
“Local government in Northern Ireland has an important role to play in representing the needs and views of people here, and in ensuring that peace building and reconciliation is maintained at local government and community level post-Brexit. The Executive meeting today provides an important opportunity to discuss and explore these key issues.
“We will also be engaging with SEUPB, to discuss future funding programmes and proposals for collaboration. Councils could, and should, play a greater role in the delivery of the post 2020 Peace Plus Funding Programme as well as the Shared Prosperity Fund.
“Councils are dynamic hubs of service delivery and are important actors in the development and delivery of City Deals. The City and Growth Deal visit to Wales, the findings of which are to be explored at the Executive meeting, highlighted that such deals can be a catalyst for big picture thinking, doing things differently and unlocking difficult issues.
“With the continued absence of a functioning Assembly and Executive, City Deal development, in both the North West and Belfast, is an important opportunity for councils to step up and show their credentials, competencies and ambition.”