Friday, 29 January 2016

Manufacturing Task Force press release

Image result for jti ballymena

Image result for michelin ballymena

The Manufacturing Task Force established by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and supported by three Government Departments cannot exist as a mere talking shop. Instead it must focus on developing a key list of actions to present to the Northern Ireland parties in advance of the development of the new Programme for Government. I believe the Task Force needs to take the following actions:

  • We need to quantify and identify the scale of manufacturing within Mid and East Antrim in order to understand the risk to our local economy.
  • We need to engage with employers and identify the risks to manufacturing businesses, whether those are energy costs, skills development, transport to overseas markets or whatever undermines the ability of business to survive, grow and develop.
  • We must develop an action plan of the interventions required to support business in this area, those interventions need to be included within the programme for government.
  • When challenged about the lack of inward investment requests for visits to North Antrim, DETI Ministers have said visits are facilitated at the request of the investor. If that is the case then Mid and East Antrim Borough Council must develop the ability to sell the region as a place to invest in. If it is not the role of Invest NI to do this then it is a role we must take on.

Time is of the essence, having an input into the Programme for Government before it is finalised will be much more effective than trying to change it to meet our needs after it is agreed by the parties.

The original Task Force was originally set up to address issues arising from the announcement of the closure of JTI. It took 13mths from that announcement until the first and only meeting of the group was held. The first meeting of the new Manufacturing Task Force has already been postponed once. Government Ministers were very quick to pass responsibility for this issue down to a local level. It is off their desks, it is now on ours. It is not our role to wring our hands and mourn the loss of 1000’s of jobs over the next three years. It is our role to deliver a new economic base for the region, it is our role to fight to replace them. No more delays, sustained action and commitment must define the role of this Task Force

Monday, 18 January 2016

Setting the rates

It's the time of year when Councils set the rate for the incoming financial year. For press, public and indeed many councillors the percentage increase or decrease is the defining issue. For some councillors their interest in the process begins and ends with that figure. For others the process represents the budget setting process for the next year and in Mid and East Antrim that represents just under £60 million of expenditure. Any budget process must answer fundamental questions, what are we committing resources to, why are we committing resources and what do we intend to achieve? Does our use of ratepayers' money represent good value and contribute to improving their quality of life? Over the next few weeks I hope to get the answers to these and many other questions to give me the confidence that council is focused on the right issues.