Local councillors in Northern Ireland have called on the UK Government to fully recognise and prioritise Northern Ireland as part of its levelling up commitments as Michael Gove attended a NILGA Executive meeting this morning.
Mr Gove, who was appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities back in September, addressed the all-party Executive meeting in Mossley Mill, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council to outline his commitments and plans for levelling up across the United Kingdom. Mr Gove’s appearance at the Executive meeting comes as the UK Government prepares to publish its white paper on levelling up, a key priority and milestone of the current administration.
The attendance by Secretary Gove is an important end of year investment and engagement signal for NILGA and its 11 member councils, as well as for Northern Ireland more widely. The attendance was also one of his first engagements in his other role as Minister for Intergovernmental Relations.
Speaking after the Executive meeting, Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said:
“Today’s meeting underlined our shared commitment to build back better from the pandemic and level up communities across the whole United Kingdom.
“From funding skills training for business start-ups in Derry/Londonderry and Strabane, to regenerating green cycleways in Ards and North Down, we’re backing locally-led projects that will make a real difference to communities in Northern Ireland.
“I look forward to building a close relationship with NILGA and working together to ensure that every individual, whatever their background, has the chance to succeed and realise their true potential.”
NILGA President Cllr Robert Burgess added:
“NILGA welcomed the engagement today with Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove MP. The Government has made levelling up across the United Kingdom the centrepiece of their administration and we look forward to the publication of the white paper on levelling up in the coming weeks.
“We are keen that Northern Ireland gets its rightful place in the levelling up agenda. Councils are at the forefront of communities across Northern Ireland and it is crucial, therefore, that we are at the forefront of levelling up. With multi-billion, multi-annual budgets for community renewal, enterprise, new skills, technology, and infrastructure, NILGA has spearheaded engagement to ensure our 11 member councils navigate and benefit from this hugely significant levelling up programme.
“NILGA’s policy and actions remain crystal clear – councils should receive every single financial and strategic incentive possible to lead place-shaped investment, social cohesion, a modern and radical approach to enterprise, and to environmental management. We welcomed today’s engagement with the Secretary of State and we look forward to continuing to engage on an official level going into the new year.”