Three councils in Northern Ireland have joined forces to ask the government for a bespoke deal to help drive economic growth in their areas.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council; Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond to outline their case for securing a package of Treasury-backed funding.
It is the third bid for a growth deal in Northern Ireland.
Belfast and five other councils on the eastern side of the Province, whose bid is the most advanced, are hoping today’s Budget will deliver a £450 million financial commitment from Mr Hammond.
Londonderry is also hoping to land a city deal package.
Last year, Mr Hammond signalled the government’s intent to work toward a “comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals” for Northern Ireland.
The three latest councils have now got their sights set on one of the tailored investment agreements, similar to those secured by other urban centres around the UK.
In a joint statement of intent, they claim such a deal would represent a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” not just for their areas, but for the whole of Northern Ireland.
They have agreed to work together to develop a strategic economic plan focused on improving productivity; creating more and better jobs; addressing economic infrastructure; growing investment; supporting business innovation and improving skills.
The three council areas collectively house 25% of Northern Ireland’s population; are home to around a third of the Province’s businesses; and employ around 200,000 people, most of them in the private sector.
Councillor Julie Flaherty, lord mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said: “By joining up the three council areas, we can hopefully leverage a Growth Deal which allows us all to put in place the structures we need to allow our companies to grow, to encourage entrepreneurialism and to put in place interventions for economic growth.”
Councillor Howard Thornton, chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, said: “We would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with our partner councils to engage with government on the detail of developing and successfully delivering an economic plan and a Growth Deal for our three council areas in partnership with the administrations in Stormont and Westminster.”
Councillor Sean McPeake, chair of Mid Ulster District Council, said: “This Growth Deal will demonstrate the power of collaboration to drive greater opportunities for our companies and citizens, our economy and society.
“In particular, a Growth Deal gives us a unique opportunity to increase the competitiveness and productivity in advanced manufacturing.
“We believe there is much to be gained from this cohesive joined-up approach which has the common goal of making our collective council areas and the wider region stronger, both economically and socially.”