The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) has relayed its concerns and solutions over EU Successor & Levelling Up Funding in Northern Ireland in its first political meeting with Housing, Communities and Local Government Minister Luke Hall MP.
NILGA urged the UK Government to work closely with local authorities in the co-ordination, delivery and scrutiny of these multibillion, multi-annual funds to develop skills, the economy, social cohesion and environmental sustainability.
NILGA President Councillor Matt Garrett, Vice President Alderman Alan McDowell, and Chair of the NILGA Economy & International Affairs Network Alderman Stephen Moutray highlighted the need for locality based decisions to be made and for councils to be brought in now, at the design stage, to avoid duplication and “too many cooks” in terms of strategies, schemes, criteria and applications.
Members highlighted that the Shared Prosperity, UK Community Renewal and Levelling Up Funds have the potential to provide millions of pounds of funding to the region over the next number of years through councils, but that the right schemes must be delivered efficiently and innovatively, giving as much autonomy as possible to councils and local partners. This would result in better skills development, entrepreneurship, community led investment, digital connectivity and sustainable infrastructure.
Following the meeting with Minister Hall, Councillor Matt Garrett, NILGA President said:
“This was a timely opportunity to engage with the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP. We are pleased the Minister will consider our local co-ordination offer and that council funding to build capacity for delivering these funds will be arriving soon and is flexible. Our member councils firmly believe that locality-based budgets are the best way forward for the delivery of all public services. Through NILGA, we will take every opportunity to provide clear evidence that well-resourced councils drawing together national and devolved administration funding is a better way to deliver investment across NI - and transform the economy after Covid.
“Going forward, we need all three tiers of government to work together to change how public finances are re-modelled, distributed and scrutinised. This is a challenge to councils and Departments here, but through NILGA we have the platform and willingness to do it. Recovery and inclusive growth will happen better, faster and right across our region if done this way. But it is what our economy and most needy citizens need, now more than ever.”