Members of the Derry City and Strabane Business and Culture Council described the recent independent report on Invest NI as damning and damaging.
A proposal unanimously passed by chairman, John McGowan MP, calls for the interim chief executive, board members and permanent secretary to meet with council to explain how they plan to address the imbalance that exists between the Belfast region and the council area, as well as the general northwest.
Referring to the report on Invest NI, MP McGowan said: “I don’t think it’s surprising to members of this chamber because Rory Farrell has been asking questions about this for a long time, but I’m shocked at how bad it is. It is what shapes the organization.
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“It may not be news to hear that they have 647 staff, of which only 50 are spread across five regional offices, but the level of staff in Belfast is shocking.”
He said there were other egregious elements in the report, including a breakdown of funding allocations.
Sinn Féin’s elected representatives claimed that Invest NI had failed the city before the motion was brought forward.
“As a committee, we need to be prepared to respond to this shocking review of Invest NI, which highlights what we all know,” he said.
“We should task officials to prepare a response to this report, and I think we should write to Invest NI on this and ask for some explanation.
“We should also be looking for an emergency meeting not just with the CEO but with the board, which I know Rory and others have called for in the past and it fell on deaf ears.
“This report has given us the catalyst to now go back to the board and the interim CEO and ask them to come and meet us in Delhi.
“As a committee, we want to hear what they intend to do to address this apparent imbalance that exists in this report, and we want them to work better with this committee because we feel like this committee is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Work, we can’t do it on the taxpayer budget we have.
“We feel their lack of supply in this area is putting a strain on our budget here.”
“Derry and Strabane demanded better and we needed more to deliver,” he added.
SDLP MP Rory Farrell seconded the proposal, adding: “This is not about attacking Invest NI or picking out of the report what fits our agenda, it’s about getting a fair deal for Derry and Strabane. We want A level playing field, but right now it’s not level and it’s not even.
“When you look at the job creation figures for the last year, Invest NI supported 67 jobs in the council area compared to 1,657 Belfast City Council area. ”
People Before Profit MP Shaun Harkin added an amendment to invite the permanent secretary, saying: “If these issues are not addressed, this organization cannot move into the future.”
UUP Alderman Ryan McCready said the report clearly highlighted the disparity between output in the Belfast region and the North West urban areas, saying “it’s public and there for all to see”.
While expressing support for the proposal, independent MP Gary Donnelly said he didn’t think it would help.
“What surprised me the most was that people were shocked by the report,” he said.
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