British Minister challenged on Task Force Report
Sinn Féin West Belfast MP Gerry Adams this morning led a party delegation, including Councillor Michael Browne and Jennifer McCann, to meet Maria Eagle the British Direct Rule Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).
Speaking afterward Gerry Adams said:
“The focus of our meeting was to raise with the Minister serious concerns which Sinn Féin has at the failure to implement significant sections of the West Belfast and Shankill Task Force report. While some progress had been made there is a lot of outstanding work to be done by the government if the Task Force report is to meet its potential.”
“The West Belfast/Shankill Economic Task Force report is crucial for the future development of all of west Belfast. The purpose of today’s meeting was to review progress thus far in the implementation of the report, but in particular to challenge the Minister on the significant parts of the report which remain outstanding.
“The Minister’s Department of Enterprise, Training and Investment (DETI) has the lead role in implementing the Task Force. I therefore raised with Ms Eagles our concern about decisions being adopted by other government departments, which are adversely impacting on the role out of the Task Force recommendations. For example, the Department of Social Development (DSD), is changing the criteria by
which disadvantage is measured and thus what government resources will be allocated to west Belfast.
DSD and the Department of Employment and Learning must be held accountable for their compliance with and implementation of the Task Force, as a mainstream policy initiative. Impoverished communities throughout west Belfast, including the Shankill, have already waited too long for the benefits of the Task Force.
“The future of specific projects like Conway Mill and the Job Assist Centres were raised by us. There is a need for progress on the proposed Enterprise Council for the area to be put in place speedily. There will also need to be an about-turn by government job creation agencies, especially Invest NI, if west Belfast is to have sustained and increased job creation.
“The Task Force report is presently the subject of a study, to extract key components for implementation. This is being done with a sub-group and a consultant. The work is due to be completed by the end of August 2006. This work is integral to developing an authentic and effective strategy for regeneration in the west Belfast constituency.
“In our conversation with the Minister we also pressed the importance of ensuring that progress is made on implementing these components. We insisted that the Minister had to make certain that in the departmental bids for the next budget that sufficient resources are drawn down to ensure that the Task Force recommendations and those projects linked to the Integrated Development Fund are advanced.
“We want this done in a structured, timetabled and visible programme of work beginning in September and progressing over the next two years.” ENDS