Agenda and minutes

Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall

Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item




An apology was reported on behalf of Councillor McDonough-Brown.




            The minutes of the meeting of the 8th and 22nd November were taken as read and signed as correct. It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 4th December.



Declarations of Interest


            In relation to items 6.c) Vibrant Business Destinations Update and 6.d) Employability and Skills - Bridges to Progression Update, Councillor Duffy declared an interest, in that he worked for an organisation that was associated with the schemes and left the room whilst the items were being considered. 



Restricted Items


            The information contained in the report associated with the following four items was restricted in accordance with Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.


      Resolved – That the Committee agrees to exclude the members of the press and public from the meeting during discussion of the following items as, due to the nature of the item, there would be a disclosure of exempt information as described in Section 42(4) and Section 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.



Belfast Zoo Quarterly Update


The Committee noted the Zoo performance update report for the period July to September 2023 and agreed to write a letter of thanks to the animal care team in relation to the care they have provided for Delilah the gorilla, since her arrival at the Zoo in 1992. 



Vacant to Vibrant Scheme Update


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an update on the Vacant to Vibrant Programme and an overview of the recommendations from the Vacant to Vibrant assessment panel following the recent receipt and assessment of applications.


            The Committee:


·        Noted the update in relation to the city centre Vacant to Vibrant Programme; and

·        Agreed to the recommended grant awards as outlined within Section 3.15 of the report.



Quarter 2 Finance Update


            The Quarter 2 financial position for the City Growth and Regeneration Committee was presented to Members, including a forecast of the year end outturn, a summary of the financial indicators and an executive summary.


            The Committee noted the report and the associated financial reporting pack.



Markets Quarterly Update


The Director of Economic Development provided an update on city markets activity, including work being undertaken at St George’s Market, as set out in the business plan.


During discussion, one Member questioned if a single use plastic policy at St. George’s Market and the Christmas Market had been explored. The Director of Economic Development advised that this could be investigated.


In response to a Member’s suggestion to celebrate the success of St. George’s Market and its number of visitors, the Director of Economic Development advised that this could be discussed with the Communications Team.


The Committee noted the update on city markets and noted the progress against target on the St George’s Market business plan that was previously agreed by this Committee in June 2023.


The Committee noted that the potential for a single use plastic policy at St. George’s Market and the Christmas Market would be investigated and the findings submitted to a future Committee for consideration. 



Matters referred back from Council/Motions


Motion - Regional Jobs and Investment Bill pdf icon PDF 480 KB


            The Committee was advised that the Standards and Business Committee, at its meeting on 28th November, had referred the following motion which had been proposed by Councillor Doherty and seconded by Councillor Whyte to the Committee for consideration:


“Belfast City Council:


Expresses grave concern at the significant geographic disparities in the economy of Northern Ireland between those areas which have experienced economic prosperity and those areas which have been left behind.


Recognises that of the ten of the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland, six can be  found in the Belfast City Council district.


Welcomes the publication of an action plan by Invest Northern Ireland (NI) to  implement the recommendations of the recent review which revealed the scale of failure of Invest NI to work as a partner on a sub-regional basis.


Welcomes the proposal for legislation to address these regional economic imbalances through a Regional Jobs and Investment Bill.


Resolves to take all possible measures to alleviate regional economic imbalances in order to give every citizen equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of geography.


Commits to responding to the consultation on this legislation which is currently open.”


The Committee agreed that a report on how this would be facilitated, resourced and managed would be submitted to a future meeting.



Regenerating Places & Improving Infrastructure


Response to Department for Infrastructure Consultations pdf icon PDF 184 KB

Additional documents:


            It was reported that the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) had issued a number of letters to the Council regarding various scheme designs or changes to legislation in relation to waiting restrictions on a number of streets following correspondence from Members. The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that DfI had requested comment from Members prior to bringing these schemes forward and the notices had been shared on the Members portal on receipt.


During discussion, several Members welcomed the changes to the schemes and suggested additional comments to the consultation responses.  


In relation to Montgomery Road, one Member questioned if the Cycle Lane covered the full length of the Road and if it was included in the Cycle Network Activity Plan. The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised this information would be confirmed.


After discussion, the Committee:


·        Noted the correspondence received from DfI as included within the Appendices A – E, in relation to Montgomery Road, Belmont Church Road, Dunville St, Sorella St, and Suffolk Road.

·        Agreed the draft responses to the consultation letter in relation to the Montgomery Road Two Way Cycle Lane as included within Appendix A;

·        Agreed the draft responses to the consultation letter in relation to the Belmont Church Road proposed imposition of waiting restrictions as included within Appendix B, with the additional request for waiting restrictions to also be imposed at the other end of the Belmont Road;

·        Agreed the draft responses to the consultation letter in relation to the Dunville Street proposed imposition of waiting restrictions as included within Appendix C, with the additional request for resident’s car parking schemes to be implemented;

·        Agreed the draft responses to the consultation letter in relation to the Sorella St proposed imposition of waiting restrictions as included within Appendix D, with the additional request for resident’s car parking schemes to be implemented; and

·        Agreed the draft responses to the consultation letter in relation to the Suffolk Road proposed imposition of waiting restrictions as included within Appendix E.



Proposed Study Visits pdf icon PDF 322 KB


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development informed the Committee that approval was sought to in relation to extending the scope of previously approved study visit with a focus on regeneration projects, including city centre living and public private

partnership approach to delivery.


            She reminded the Committee that, in December 2021 following an invitation from Newcastle City Council to facilitate shared learnings around regeneration projects and good practice in city centre living, the Committee had agreed to a proposed study visit which was subject to restrictions at the time around travel and Covid – 19. Due to advice regarding the implementation of Covid restrictions at the time the study visit had to be postponed.



            She advised that officers had continued to engage with representatives from Newcastle and other Irish and UK cities, through existing fora such as UKReeiF / MIPIM, Urban Land Institute, and the Belfast City and Region Place Partnership. In addition to the planned visit to Newcastle, there had been ongoing contact with Greater Manchester and Leeds City Council. It was proposed to extend the scope of the previously approved study visit to include Greater Manchester and Leeds.


            She highlighted that these visits would provide an opportunity to examine examples of housing led regeneration, institutional investor partnership approaches that these local authorities had taken to deliver regeneration as well as public private partnership approaches that support city centre living.


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development pointed out that the proposed extended visit was considered timely given the commencement of the procurement process to seek a Private Sector Partner to deliver residential led, mixed use developments in the support of the growth ambitions as set out in the Belfast Agenda. While the core focus would be on city centre living and the institutional investor partnership / public  private partnership approach to delivery of regeneration projects, it would also provide an  opportunity to discuss other regeneration projects including City Deal, Innovation Districts and  funding mechanisms available to support regeneration.


            She advised that it was proposed that the visit would take place at the end of January / early February 2024, over 2 days (one overnight) for Party Group Leaders or their nominees and accompanying officers. She informed the Committee that it was estimated that a budget of up to £600 per person would be required for the proposed extended visit which would be met from existing budget.


            The Committee:


·        Agreed to extend the scope of a previously approved study visit to Newcastle to include other cities including Greater Manchester and Leeds which would focus on regeneration projects including city centre living and public private partnership approach to delivery; and

·        Approved the attendance of Party Group Leaders or their nominees, accompanied by officers.



Positioning Belfast to Compete


City Imagining Update pdf icon PDF 464 KB


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues


1.1       The purpose of this report is to advise members of a range of activity undertaken in since April 2023 to deliver on objectives of the ten-year cultural strategy, A City Imagining.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is asked to:


·        Note the work undertaken in the financial year to date

·        Approve the allocation of £28,000 towards the Output Conference

·        Agree to participate in Culture Commons, an open policy development programme that will run in partnership with UK based partners.

·        Agree to the pilot micro-grant programme in collaboration with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (CQAF).


3.0       Main Report


3.1       In April 2023, members agreed the key actions in 2023/24 aligned to the implementation of year 4 of the Cultural strategy. Year 4 of the strategy has sought to combine cultural recovery with renewal in line with the commitments and priorities set out in A City Imagining.


3.2       Investing in the cultural sector


            Similar to the Belfast Agenda, the investment model for culture includes a partnership approach to supporting the cultural sector, with the aim of sustaining and developing accessible cultural activity and infrastructure across Belfast. This investment is central to creating positive cultural, social and economic impacts for the city, delivering on our overall targets for the period, positioning Belfast as a regional driver, and creating the conditions for long-term transformation.  The aims of the cultural investment model are to:


·        support the cultural life of the city by enabling citizens to be active, dynamic and creative agents of change.

·        invest in the cultural and creative sectors skills development and capacity for production and innovation.

·        position Belfast as an international testing ground for new approaches to cultural engagement, development and placemaking.

·        establish Belfast as a cultural destination.


3.3       The Culture Team manages a range of grant programmes and investment schemes for organisations and artists, totalling £3.04m funding through 117 awards.  These schemes include:




Number of awards/organisations supported


Cultural Multi-Annual Grant (CMAG)


36 Arts/ Heritage organisations

20 Festivals and Events organisations

Scoring and Moderation for 2024-28

Pathfinder Awards


Four organisations

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Community Festivals Fund

69,000 + match funding from DFC

20 Community Festivals

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Arts and Heritage Grant


17 Arts and Heritage Projects

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Access and Inclusion grants

Funding provided by Department for Communities

Two organisations supported

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Artist Studios and Maker Spaces Organisational Grants


10 Artist Studios

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Creative Bursary Scheme for Individual Artists


16 artists

Scored, awarded and contracts issued

Music Heritage Programme


4-5 organisations

Launched October 2023


3.4       At the mid-way point in the year, work is complete with applications scored, moderated awarded and contracts issued to all core grant and investment schemes for 2023/24.  The Music Heritage scheme will launch in October 2023.  The next round of Cultural Multi-Annual Grants (CMAG), which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Belfast Bikes Scheme - Quarterly Update pdf icon PDF 345 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee considered the following report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1       To update Members on the performance of the Belfast Bikes scheme in quarter two (1st July 2023 - 30th September 2023) of year 8 of operation.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is requested to:


·        note the update of the Belfast Bikes performance for Y8 Q2 (July-September); financial year 

·        note the update to the notice of motion regarding free access for young people;

·        note the progress regarding phase one and phase two expansion.

·        note the update that tender will be prepared for a procurement of a new Public Bike Hire Scheme

·        note an Expression of Interest has been circulated for a new sponsor for the Public Bike Hire Scheme


3.0       Main report


3.1       Background


            The Belfast Bikes scheme was launched in 2015 as part Belfast City Council’s physical investment programme. The Department for Regional Development provided initial capital funding for the scheme as part of their Active Travel Demonstration Projects budget. The scheme launched with a network of 30 docking stations and 300 bikes. The scheme has been operated by NSL continually since inception using bikes and supporting infrastructure from ‘Nextbike by TIER’.  The scheme currently operates with 588 (including those in reserve for new stands) and 56 docking stations.


3.2       Expansion of the Scheme


            At CG&R on 12May 2021 it was agreed that an additional four Belfast Bikes docking stations would be deployed using DFI Active Travel funding. All stations below are now operational


·        Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre

·        Olympia Leisure Centre

·        Kennedy Centre

·        Waterworks


3.3       At CG&R on 9 June 2021 it was agreed to proceed with an additional 15 docking stations. At SP&R on 18 June 2021members agreed for £980,000 to be invested in the expansion proposal (£480,000 non-recurrent funding for Belfast Bikes expansion and £500,000 non-recurrent reallocated from public space programme).


3.4       Works are ongoing for the design and installation of eight stations in Phase 1 (to be installed throughout 2023):


·        North: Shore Road - complete & operational

·        West: Coláiste Feirste – complete & operational

·        South: Malone Road (Elms Village) - complete & operational 

·        East: Castlereagh Road – complete & operational

·        North: Yorkgate – on hold due to train station construction

·        West: Glencairn Park – to be installed in Autumn 2023

·        South: Lisburn Road (Drumglass Park)- to be installed in Autumn 2023

·        East: Upper Newtownards Road (Sandown Carpark) – to be installed late 2023


3.5       There are plans for seven further stations in Phase 2 in year 2023/24. Planning for those are on hold as officers are currently preparing documents for a tender process to appoint a new provider/operator. Locations for the seven stations will be identified and brought back to the AWG and to be implemented in the new scheme.


3.6       Operational Performance




            Following the ongoing challenges sourcing replacement bike parts, this issue has now been resolved and the number of bikes on the street during Q2 has increased.  The average daily bikes on the street during Q2 was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Tourism Strategy Consultation Response pdf icon PDF 338 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee was reminded that the Department for the Economy (DfE) had opened consultation on its Draft Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland on the 6th November which would close on the 12th January, 2024.


            The Director of Economic Development explained that the draft Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland was a 10 year plan that set out DfE’s vision and mission for the growth of the tourism sector in Northern Ireland over the next decade. It sought to help position the region internationally as an attractive place to visit, making visitors feel welcome while at the same time helping to make the lives better of all of our citizens. It sought to deliver on the objectives of 10x by generating economic growth that was sustainable, inclusive and innovative.


            He advised that, since the publication of the 10x strategy, the Department had been working to consider how the practical implementation of overarching objectives set out in the 10X Economic Vision was to be achieved. It has issued a number of related documents such as the Skills Strategy (Skills for a 10X Economy) and had been working on appropriate metrics to track progress. He informed the Committee that the Tourism Strategy was a continuation of this delivery and remained aligned to the proposal of DfE investment to be aligned with activity that supported the 10x ambition.


            He highlighted that the draft Tourism Strategy identified the key challenges and opportunities for growth and was premised on five themes and sought to strive for a new and ambitious growth trajectory that was:


·        Innovative and uses our creative skills;

·        Inclusive by bringing opportunities for all;

·        Sustainable for generations;

·        Attractive to visitors and investors; and

·        Collaborative to deliver a shared vision.


He stated that the Department now requested that all interested parties consider the draft proposals for growth in the tourism sector and saw this as an opportunity to help shape the final strategy and next steps.


            The Director of Economic Development advised that a summary of the five questions posed and draft responses to each of these had been collated and were attached in Appendix 1 for the Committee to review and confirm their agreement for submission to DfE, subject to any other matters that they wished to incorporate.


            He explained that, from the perspective of the Council, the fact that the regional government  department with responsibility for economic growth had identified the role that Tourism plays  as an economic driver that could be delivered for visitors and citizens alike was welcome. As a result, the tone of the draft response was to recognise and support the need for an innovative and collaborative tourism strategy and sector. However, the response also suggested that there was a more effective mechanism for achieving this, namely, to utilise the data, insights and structures that already existed at local level and to identify greater opportunities for collaborative working that took cognisance of cross cutting objectives and shared resources, that focused efforts and facilitated effective delivery.


During discussion, one Member highlighted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Update on the Fleadh Cheoil pdf icon PDF 330 KB


The Director of Economic Development provided an update on the ongoing Fleadh bid work and requested associated budget.


He stated that, in recent weeks, officers had developed an updated edition of the Fleadh Cheoil bid book and this would accompany the Council’s Expression of Interest for the 2025 event, which must be with the Fleadh Executive Office in Dublin by 15th December, 2023.


He advised that this updated iteration had been consolidated by feedback received on our previous submissions – and it now included an English version with Irish language headings, a separate full Irish language version and additional content inserted on Accessibility and Sustainability (as per previous bid submission feedback from Comhaltas).


He reminded the Committee that, at its meeting in June, it had approved officers to continue with the bid process for future years, approved the budget for 2023-24 associated with the bid process (including attendance of a delegation at each event including attendance by Lord Mayor at the Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar in August) and noted the costs associated with bid activity for 2024-25 and 2025-26.


He pointed out that, since then, the 2024 / 2025 calendar of Fleadh related events had become available as follows:


            The table also illustrates which events the Lord Mayor and other Council officials might need to attend.


            The Director of Economic Development highlighted that officers were now seeking permission to send the Lord Mayor and appropriate officers to these events as detailed. He highlighted that attendance was important to demonstrate the ongoing commitment from the Council and Ards Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCE) to securing Fleadh Cheoil. In particular, it was critical that approval was provided promptly to allow travel arrangements to be booked as soon as possible for the US Convention in Buffalo, New York in early April 2024 (which was within the first week of the new financial year). This would ensure optimum value for money in the booking process and to allow for synergy between the travel plans of the Council’s delegation and that of Ards CCE. For the appropriate Director detailed as above, costs were expected to be circa £2,500 for attendance at the US Convention.


He explained that the in-year Events Development Budget (£40,000) had to-date covered the costs of the Ards Letter of Offer in-year, and other Fleadh bid book work to date including translation, design and print costs. In addition, members agreed to provide a Eurovision event in Belfast in May from this budget line. While some budget remained (circa £7,000), a full Fleadh Executive visit was also planned for Belfast within the first financial quarter of 2024, which needed to be accounted for in budget profiling.


The Director of Economic Development advised that the Committee was requested to consider approval for the additional budget required to accommodate the arrangements for the US Convention in - year to a value of £2,500.


In relation to Ards CCE, the Committee was reminded that under the conditions of the current in-year Funding Agreement with Ards CCE, the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Growing Business and the Economy


Building an inclusive labour market - research and event update pdf icon PDF 360 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report/Summary of Main Issues


1.1       The purpose of this report is to update members on plans for a conference to take place on 22 January 2024.  The conference will focus on how to make the labour market more inclusive – with a particular focus on addressing economic inactivity.



2.0       Recommendation


2.1       Members are asked to:


·        Note the report including details of the planned 22 January 2024 event focusing on inclusive labour markets

·        Promote the event to key contacts in their networks in order to ensure a wide representation and discussion at the event.


3.0       Main Report


3.1       Members will be aware that funding for projects and organisations working with those who are economically inactive were significantly impacted with the cessation of EU funds.  Traditionally, this work had been resourced through European Social Fund (ESF) funding.  This concluded in March 2023.  The replacement funding – Shared Prosperity Fund – does include a theme which focuses on People and Skills.  The most significant element of this funding – around £50million – has been set aside for projects which focus on addressing economic inactivity.  18 projects were awarded funding for delivery through to March 2025 (from April 2023).  13 of these projects are based in Belfast (but some have regional coverage).


3.2       As these projects mobilise for delivery, there are concerns around the sustainability of the funding model (which will run out in just over a year from now) as well as the ability of those projects, alone, to address a long-standing structural issue in the local labour market. 


3.3       In Belfast, economic inactivity presents a significant challenge for the city.  The current economic inactivity rate for Belfast is around 29% - slightly ahead of the regional average.  There are a number of reasons why people are economically inactive: students are counted among this figure as are those with caring responsibilities (looking after the family and home), health reasons and early retirees.  While the inactivity rate is high, the overall unemployment rate for the region has decreased to an all-time low: figures for November 2023 show it sitting around 2.1%.  What this means is that employers are competing within a limited talent pool.  However the inactivity rate has never seen any real improvement over many decades – regardless of the prevailing economic climate and employment/unemployment rate. 


3.4       In more recent times, there has been a wider discourse around what solutions are needed to address the challenges of economic inactivity.  This is a very complex problem that will require a multi-faceted solution involving partners across many areas including health; skills support; economic development; social security and childcare support. 


3.5       While DfC retains the policy remit for this area of work, the input from a wider number of partners means that sustainable solutions that make an impact can only be found if all partners get behind the issue and make long-term commitments in this space. 


3.6       One of the reflections that we have identified is the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.


Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor Partnership Agreement approval pdf icon PDF 349 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting in March, it had received an update on progress to support the development of the Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor including work on the strategy and action plan. The plan aimed to support sustainable economic growth across the region, identifying areas of focus for the partnership to address future opportunities and seeking to address any gaps in existing provision.


            The vision of the strategy was to become a leading economic corridor in Europe, achieving sustainable growth through collaborative research and development, a highly skilled workforce and enabling infrastructure. This included an ambition to be world renowned as a major international centre in growth sectors such as Professional Services, Advanced Manufacturing, ICT and Life and Health Sciences.


            The action plan outlined key pillars to support effective delivery, including ways of working, governance and resourcing, and communication and marketing. Priority actions to date included:


·        Staffing: in line with recommendations under the strategy, two full time staff members, a Programme Manager and Project Officer were recruited in Summer 2023. The staff were based at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and operate across the partnership;

·        Management and governance: Dates had been agreed until September 2024 for regular meetings of the partnership governance structure, including monthly meetings at Director level, bi-monthly among CEOs and quarterly meetings for elected representatives. A new Collaboration and Funding Agreement had been prepared to further clarify areas of co-operation and partnership working and to confirm the budget profile for 2024;

·        Communications: DBEC was developing a coherent marketing and communications strategy in line with the strategic objectives. The team would work with an external communications partner to support delivery;

·        Engagement: Given that the Partnership now had dedicated resources in place, the team was working on a stakeholder engagement framework that would identify priority linkages, aligned to the action plan. The Team was already engaging in key meetings and this work would continue in order to further shape the programme of activity;

·        Research: The immediate focus on research included a review of existing skills strategies, identifying gaps, barriers and opportunities for co-operation. The DBEC staff had also participated in consultation around research commissioned by the Shared Island Unit in relation to the all-island labour market and were exploring opportunities for engagement in Peace Plus projects in this area of work; and

·        Funding: The Irish Government’s Shared Island initiative aimed to harness the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement to enhance cooperation, connection and mutual understanding on the island and engage with all communities and traditions to build consensus around a shared future. The DBEC Partnership was successful in an application for Shared Island funding to carry out a feasibility study into regional innovation hubs within the partnership area. This work would conclude in early December and relevant findings would be brought back to this committee for information.


            The Committee was reminded that, as part of the governance structure for the partnership, there were 24 councillors on a Political Advisory Group (3 nominees from each  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.


Vibrant Business Destinations Update pdf icon PDF 354 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting in November 2022, it had agreed a new investment approach to support local business associations to develop and deliver interventions to drive footfall and create vibrancy in those areas.


            The overarching purpose of the pilot initiative was to strengthen the competitiveness of our local business destinations, focusing on actions which aim to:


·        Support the development of shared and safely accessible commercial areas;

·        Support the diversification of business destinations outside of the city centre;

·        Bring together key stakeholders to benefit business destinations outside of the city centre; and

·        Improve the quality of urban design, distinctiveness, and townscape quality.


            The Committee was also reminded that the pilot was developed in response to feedback from a range of businesses and traders’ associations across the city regarding drop off in footfall and a challenging operating environment post-Covid. Through engagement with the Department for Communities (DfC), an opportunity was identified to secure resources through the DfC Revitalisation programme. The concept for the “Vibrant Business Destinations” (VBD)  intervention was identified as a pilot programme in keeping with work undertaken by the Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) to develop a “Living High Street Toolkit”. The Council successfully secured funding of £475,000 from the Department for Communities (DfC). The Council also provided match funding to enable the delivery of advice and support to extend the scope of the scheme. VBD was intended to complement a wider programme of support and activity that was taking place within the city centre, including the Vacant to Vibrant Support Programme and previous business support interventions through the Covid Revitalisation Programme.


            The Director of Economic Development advised that the pilot initiative aimed to support up to 10 business associations to a maximum of £40,000 each for expenditure on a range of eligible activities. The objectives were to:


·        Increase engagement and partnership working between statutory partners and local business associations;

·        Support the development of area-based actions plans which address specific local concerns and deliver specific, measurable benefits over the short/medium and long term;

·        Increase footfall and sales as a direct result of marketing and promotional activity; generate new customers or sustaining customer loyalty through increasing sales revenue, increasing the number of new customers or developing repeat business;

·        Enhance the profile of the area with a view to stimulating economic activity;

·        Support the growth and development of businesses engaged in associated activity; and

·        Support the sustainability of businesses and local business associations.


            He explained that the initiative operated via a two-stage application process and that basic eligibility criteria included:


·        Groups or established associations must be led by the business community (including social enterprises and cooperatives) to address locally based issues and be committed to becoming a constituted association;

·        Groups or established associations must be made up of retail/hospitality/consumer facing businesses located on road frontage/local high streets;

·        The priority focus is on arterial routes and routes with a minimum number of 15 confirmed businesses located on road frontage;

·        Group membership should be representative of the businesses in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Employability and Skills - Bridges to Progression Update pdf icon PDF 179 KB


            The Committee considered the following report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues


1.1       The purpose of this report is to seek approval for the allocation of Bridges to Progression resources based on the outcome of the competitive application process undertaken.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is asked to:


·        Approve the allocation of Labour Market Partnership (LMP) resources for Bridges to Progression and note the proposals to seek proposals from delivery partners to provide targeted support that can improve outcomes for participants.


3.0       Main Report


3.1       Labour Market Partnership


            Members will be aware that the Labour Market Partnership is an intervention supported by DfC within all 11 council areas. Resources from the Labour Market Partnership enable the Council to increase the range and scope of employability and skills activity.  The LMP also provides a platform for engagement with government departments, community partners and business organisations as a means of refocusing regional programmes more effectively within the Belfast area.  The LMP action plan recognises that, while there are gaps that have been identified that will necessitate the creation of new interventions, not all activity need be new ‘provision’ or ‘programmes’; sometimes it is equally important to profile and/or promote existing interventions.  One of these interventions is Bridges to Progression which officers have ensured operates as a ‘test and learn’ to inform any recommissioning of Skills for Life & Work DfE contracts.


3.2       Bridges to Progression


            Bridges to Progression is an intervention to support young people aged 16-17 years who are at risk of disengaging from Skills for Life & Work due to their personal circumstances.  Participants can access intensive personal support to help them progress in and complete their formal training, with the ambition of improving the levels of progression into employment or further training.   Previous analysis had flagged a very high level of drop out from these programmes, particularly in Belfast.  It showed that the reasons behind participants no longer engaging with the programme related to wider social challenges – rather than the programme content itself. 


3.3       At the October 2023 meeting of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee, it was agreed that officers would seek expressions of interest from organisations delivering these programmes, outlining how they would use resources to add value to the core activity with the objective of improving outcomes for participants. It was also agreed that officers would undertake assessment of the applications for funding in line with the approach detailed in this report. 


3.4       While all Training for Success/Skills for Life & Work providers were invited to submit applications for 2023/24 outlining how they would use the resources, seven applied and six met the quality threshold.  Bridges to Progression offers an average of £750 per participant up to the maximum of £90,000 allocated from LMP Budget 2023/24:



Activity proposed




Engage Programme: teambuilding, mentoring, mental health support, employer engagement & lifestyle support



People First

Employ a counsellor: 1-1 and group counselling sessions, crisis response service, behavioural support through CBT & staff support around  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.