A new report into chronic economic marginalisation and deprivation has endorsed a key plank in SDLP MP Mark Durkan’s recent election platform, namely that Londonderry should be granted a ‘City Deal’ in order to address regional inequalities and disparities.
The Labour Party commissioned Heenan-Anderson Commission, co-chaired by the Londonderry-based Professor Deirdre Heenan, has reported and recommends: “Consideration should be given to developing a City Deal in Derry-Londonderry to address regional inequalities and disparities. “Interventions should be targeted and multi-dimensional, at the level of the individual, household and region or city. Enterprise zones could also be considered.
“This will require partnership between the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive.”
The report suggests this would give people here greater control over shaping their future.
“Derry and Strabane are top of the deprivation league table with the highest rates of unemployment, highest rates of economic inactivity, highest levels of free school meal entitlement, highest levels of housing stress and lowest levels of life expectancy.
“By giving Derry-Londonderry the power to make decisions about its infrastructure through targeted, multi-dimensional support at the level of the individual, household and region or city this would lead to economic regeneration and a redressing of regional inequalities,” the report acknowledges.
Consultations and submissions informing the report noted that there was a strong sense in the North West that Northern Ireland is Belfast-centric and that this is socially unjust.
“Consultees living in the North-West area cited major gaps across a key range of public sector areas such as education, health, employment, access to services and indeed life expectancy. Despite government promises and the establishment of a North-West Ministerial subgroup, funding and support was believed to be heavily biased towards Belfast, at the expense of the North West,” the report states.
“Communities here that have been disadvantaged for generations remain stubbornly at the bottom of the league tables for poverty and deprivation.
“The infrastructure in the North West remains a particular issue, including a lack of progress on the proposed A5 and A6 roads. Derry and Strabane have the highest rates of unemployment, highest levels of free school meal entitlement, highest levels of housing stress and lowest levels of lifeexpectancy in Northern Ireland. Invest Northern Ireland figures reveal that fewer than 10 per cent of jobs created were in Derry and Strabane,” it adds.