Local MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has vowed that he and his DUP colleagues will fight to secure part of the additional £1.5bn funding package for Northern Ireland for key projects in Lagan Valley.
The cash injection, secured by Mr Donaldson and his fellow DUP MPs as part of a ‘Confidence and Supply Agreement’ with the Conservative government, could help fund a number of infrastructure, health and education projects in the local area, it has been claimed.
DUP MPs have agreed to support Theresa May’s minority government on votes such as the Queen’s Speech, the budget and legislation relating to Brexit and national security. In exchange, the Conservatives have promised an additional £1.5bn of funding for Northern Ireland - money Mr Donaldson believes could make a real difference in Lagan Valley.
“My DUP colleagues Edwin Poots MLA and Paul Givan MLA, and our local councillors, have already been in touch with me so that we can take a joint approach to secure as much of this additional funding as possible for the Lagan Valley constituency,” he explained.
Mr Donaldson says he and his colleagues will focus on securing funding for “a number of key options”, including the Sprucefield to Knockmore link road, a new link road from the M1 to the Maze regeneration site, the provision of additional social housing to meet the current need in Lisburn and Dromore and the continued roll out of high speed broadband across the Lagan Valley area.
They have also set out a number of options in terms of health, specifically the introduction of a Minor Injuries Unit at Lagan Valley Hospital and completion of the new health centre, as well as enhanced mental health services at Lagan Valley Hospital.
As well as seeking more funding to ease pressures on school budgets, Mr Donaldson said he is also determined to pursue capital investment in a new primary school to serve the west Lisburn area and a new nursery school to cover the north Lisburn area, and a new building for Dromore High School.
He also wants to see the inclusion of Lisburn within the proposed ‘City Deals’ agreement in order to deliver “significant additional investment to the city.”
“I stress that these projects are all options under consideration and there is no guarantee that funding will be available for them. Nevertheless, the council and elected representatives need to come together to make the case for our area,” Mr Donaldson continued.
“The DUP is taking the lead on this and will work with others to deliver as many projects as possible. We will also welcome ideas that others may wish to propose for suitable projects in the Lagan Valley area.”
Meanwhile, the long-serving Lagan Valley MP has hit back at comments made last week by UUP MLA Robbie Butler about the DUP-Tory deal.
Mr Butler, a former firefighter, said he was “angry and frustrated” to see the DUP and Conservatives vote against lifting the cap on public sector pay. And he called on the two parties to “revisit and reverse their decision”.
But claiming that Mr Butler had “wilfully misrepresented the position of the DUP”, Mr Donaldson said: “The DUP appreciates all that our public sector workers do and we have consistently supported a fair pay rise for them, including healthcare staff, teachers, civil servants, fire & rescue, police etc. That remains our position. The parliamentary vote that he referred to was an amendment by Jeremy Corbyn to the Queen’s Speech and, had it succeeded, the government would not have been able to proceed with its legislative programme and the country would have faced yet another needless general election.
“If the DUP had abandoned its agreement with the Conservatives and voted against them on the Queen’s speech, we would have lost the additional money for Northern Ireland and our hard pressed public services.”
Mr Donaldson, who increased his majority to more than 19,000 at the last election, described Mr Butler’s comments as “deeply disappointing”, adding: “The proper place to deal with public sector pay is in the forthcoming budget where a balanced and responsible approach can be taken to our public finances. The DUP will seek to use its influence at Westminster to deliver the lifting of the cap on public sector pay and a fair pay rise for public sector workers. However, the budget should also ensure support for the private sector as even more of our constituents work in that sector.
“I was elected to represent everyone, whether they be business owners, tradesmen or women, skilled and unskilled workers as well as those who work in the public sector.”
Stressing that the DUP-Conservative agreement will deliver £1.5bn of investment in frontline public services across Northern Ireland, including vital funding for projects in Lagan Valley, Mr Donaldson urged Mr Butler and other local representatives to cooperate with the DUP and seize “this great opportunity to work together for the good of the people we represent.”