NILGA Chief Executive Derek McCallan said:
“The evidence provided today from our local government colleague Suzanne Wylie, CEO, Belfast City Council, endorsed by NILGA, highlighted the positive impact EU Structural Funds have had in Northern Ireland over the past twenty years. As a region, Northern Ireland continues to lag behind the other UK and European regions on several economic measures and the purpose of these funds has been to reduce regional disparities in income, wealth and provide opportunities for businesses and communities across this region.
“EU funding has had a considerable and profound impact on the local economy here. Since 2014, the 11 local authorities in collaboration with partner councils and the third sector have delivered substantial local economic development projects totalling over £14 million and councils continue to be our closest link within local communities. Therefore, they should have a greater role in ensuring that any new local interventions or programmes are aligned to community plans as set out in the Executive priorities in the Programme for Government.
“For the Shared Prosperity Fund to deliver for our region, it is essential it has local input. With the ongoing delays, it is unlikely to be operational until April 2021, diminishing the opportunity for meaningful consultation with local government and partners into its design. Having engaged with the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government almost two years ago regarding the priorities for the Shared Prosperity Fund, NILGA and SOLACE have had no further update with the expected consultation postponed several times due to Brexit, Covid and now the Comprehensive Spending Review.
“NILGA has repeatedly been asking for clarity on this fund and there is an opportunity now to undertake the preparatory work within Northern Ireland. Councils are ready and willing to play their part as partners in government and we hope that today’s meeting with the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will be the start of that engagement, which we will take forward through the Partnership Panel mechanism.”