As the SDLP re-launch their branding in a simplistic and minimalist fashion, they have again called for a City Deal for Derry and Belfast. This looks great on paper, but in reality there is more chance of Derby and Birmingham getting treasury millions before Derry and Belfast.
On 31 October 2015 Mark Durkan (previously Foyle MP) called for the British Treasury to take into consideration the Heenan-Anderson report (http://www.heenan-anderson.
Reality check: There are no votes for Tories in exchange for funding a City Deal in Derry and/or Belfast.
Let’s look at the background behind City Deals. In 2011 the British Government set out its stall in relation to City Deals. The City Deals were to be put in place to reinvigorate Cities that were feeling left out of the financial bracket, and ultimately make the Conservative Government look like the good guys and – they hoped – this positivity would be rewarded by voters.
The City Deals were the brain child of Nick Clegg (Deputy PM at the time) and Gregg Clark (Secretary of State to Business). The pair issued a White Paper to the British Government titled: “Unlocking Growth in Cities”. This document set out in plain terms how each successful City (via an application process) could ensure they could face:
* Economic challenges
*Work across local enterprise and local authority boundaries, sectors, and professions – bringing together governments, cities, neighbouring authorities and local business leaders
* Give real power to city authorities so they can create economic growth
The City Deals were rolled out in in ‘waves’ (in cities outside London) ensuring that each area of Britain could reach their full potential; in other words, where the Tories were light on the ground, they pumped in cash to try and secure votes.
Wave 1 promised each area (list available on ww.gov.uk/citydeal) that it:
“…will create 175,000 jobs and 37,000 new apprenticeships over the next 20 years”
This, in the throes of austerity, was a bold claim and what transpired was, you guessed it – it didn’t happen. The 175,000 jobs didn’t materialise. The apprenticeships floundered, and the White Paper presented in 2011 began to look thinner and thinner.
From its inception to implementation, there have been 26 City Deals introduced in Britain. There have been some successes, but they all have one thing in common, a lack of coherence and foresight. Not once did the White Paper or Clegg/Clark mention any funding for the North of Ireland. More evidence that the North doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the ‘UK’.
City Deals are finished. The money doesn’t exist to maintain them and the straw figures that Clegg and Clark spun gold from didn’t take into consideration the mounting British debt which currently sits at £2 trillion.
By 2020/1 Britain is set to be £210bn deeper in debt than George Osborne forecast at the time of the 2016 March Budget, pre-Brexit vote. That means increases in borrowing of £122bn over the next 5 years – and don’t forget about the £1.5 billion that Ms May donated to the DUP for votes. We all know what impact that money could’ve had in relation to teachers and front-line workers, to name but a few!
Currently in Britain, social care is underfunded. Pensioners who in their younger days felt Thatcher’s poverty policy and Major’s poor financial policies, are now left without sufficient care in their twilight years.
Mrs May and her Conservatives could not be more blameworthy as they continue their policy of social and economic hard-right division; we only have to look at the Grenfell disaster to see Tories in action. The British public will not want to give the North another penny, never mind a financial package on top of the block grant and the DUP bung. The SDLP calling for a City Deal sounds good, but in reality it’s a non-starter.
The SDLP have had their fiscal day, and weren’t very successful. They delivered zero for Derry for example, and calling for a City Deal in order to stay relevant makes them look even more irrelevant.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood recently said in a Derry paper:
“City Deals have been negotiated and are working well in Scotland and Wales. It’s time Northern Ireland got its fair share and we use it to pump prime our economic and infrastructure development ahead of Brexit.”
Mr Eastwood obviously doesn’t grasp the reality of the fiscal situation of the real world, or the fact that the SDLP have done very little to tackle Brexit on an all-island basis – the only terms under which it should be tackled.
In conclusion, City Deals, as far as Ireland is concerned, aren’t worth the paper they are written on, and they do nothing for the Tory party.