Venue: City Hall
Contact: Ms. Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer 028 9027 0450
Apologies for inability to attend were reported on behalf of Aldermen Haire, Rodgers and Sandford, and Councillors Canavan, Ferguson, Kyle and McLaughlin.
Declarations of Interest
No declarations of interest were reported.
Update on Brexit Preparedness (Verbal Update)
The Policy and Business Development Officer provided the Committee with an update on Council’s Brexit preparedness and arrangements.
She advised that Officers would continue to monitor developments over the coming months and take part in a range of webinars on subjects related to Brexit and disseminate any relevant information when it became available. She explained that the Council would continue to engage with NILGA and SOLACE in relation to Brexit preparedness and also share information on events such as the Settlement Scheme information sessions. She highlighted that the UK government’s website (https://www.gov.uk/transition) provided advice on what actions people might need to take to prepare for the end of the transition period.
She confirmed that the Council planned to review and update its Business Continuity Management process for the Council's critical and key services to prepare for the various scenarios. She pointed out that learning from the Covid 19 crisis would be taken into account and Members would be kept informed on the process.
In relation to Belfast Port, the City Protection Manager provided an update on the work being undertaken with central government departments and other stakeholders to prepare for implementation of the NI Protocol. He advised that requirements for checks on 1st January were still unknown as these would be dependent on outcomes of negotiations between the EU and UK government. He advised that precautionary planning for the Council, following Food Standards Agency (FSA) direction, was based on current EU requirements and the Council was currently recruiting additional temporary staff to carryout checks funded by the FSA. He reported that there was an assumption that DAERA would be producing a business case to the UK Government to cover all associated costs and that it was anticipated that Councils would be fully funded.
During Members’ questions, the City Protection Manager confirmed that meetings were still ongoing with the lead department DAERA, but that no final decisions surrounding issues with Belfast Port had been issued. The City Solicitor confirmed that the previously agreed Members’ visit to Belfast and Dublin Ports would be taken forward by Officers.
The Committee was informed of future presentations to the Committee, which included David Phinnemore, QUB; Update on NI Protocol (September) and that previous confirmed Speakers, which had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, would be rescheduled in due course.
After discussion, the Committee noted the update and that the previously agreed visit to the Ports would be arrangement by Officers.
The Committee also agreed to invite the following organisations to a future meeting of the Committee:
· The Executive Office/Department of Finance and the Northern Ireland Office to discuss the Shared Prosperity Fund; and
· Representatives from the Brexit Working Group of The European Committee of the Regions.
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 provide Members with an update on a study currently being undertaken by ekosgen on behalf of SOLACE NI, being managed directly by Belfast City Council officers, to develop a regional local government position on the development and future management and delivery of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF).
2.1 The Committee is therefore, asked to:
a) note the ongoing Ekosgen study, commissioned by SOLACE NI, in developing a local government position piece on the future SPF;
b) agree that the final Ekosgen report, which will be used to inform the development of a Belfast City Council corporate position on the SPF, be brought back to members for their information at a future meeting.
3.0 Main report
3.1 Members will be aware thatEuropean Structural and Investment (ESI) funds help to pay for initiatives supporting business development, research and development, investment in digital and green infrastructure, as well skills and training interventions and support for job-seekers.
3.2 But with the UK having formally departed the European Union, the country will stop receiving new ESI funding at the end of 2020. Thus, for 2021 and beyond, the UK government faces choices over what to replace ESI funding with. This is important as ESI funding forms a substantial component of spending on regional economic development in the UK, especially in the poorest regions.
3.3 To this end government has announced the creation of the SPF. The objectives set by the Government for the SPF is to tackle inequalities between communities, and raise productivity in those parts of the country whose economies are furthest behind, but so far it has given few details around its scale, design and implementation.
3.4 As you will no doubt be aware Northern Ireland has been a net beneficiary of the EU Structural funds and their impact on economic development has been significant – indeed in Northern Ireland we receive approx. 5% of the total UK allocation, while only representing 2.8% of the population.
3.5 Therefore, the future scope and operation of the SPF as EU successor funding, will be crucial in shaping the future economic and social prosperity of Northern Ireland – by providing funding to support the foundations of prosperity, it can also contribute to eliminating inequalities and ensure inclusive growth for local communities.
3.6 SOLACE NI commissioned research on behalf of the 11 councils to consider the issues and opportunities provided by the SPF and to develop a strong local government position to present to NICS. There is little doubt that given the experience of local councils in delivering and working with local area delivery partners through European funded economic development and infrastructure programmes, that we can make an important contribution to co-designing the SPF, sharing our expertise with NICS, to ensure a model that benefits all our communities.
3.7 This study will also promote the understanding that some decisions are ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
EU week of Regions and Cities and EU Funding Opportunities Update (Verbal Update)
The International Relations Manager provided information in relation to the EU week of Regions and Cities together with an update in EU Funding Opportunities.
She explained that, this year, the EU week of Regions and Cities would take virtually over three consecutive weeks from 5th – 22nd October. She reported that the registration link would be circulated to Members and joining the meetings would be a good opportunity to engage with a wide range of cities. She advised that the Council had been invited to attend a Panel by the Irish Regions Office on the topic of resilience, to set out and showcase the work that was being undertaken in Belfast and further information would be provided on the participants of the Panel in due course.
During discussion, one member suggested that the Council could organise its own event, in relation to resilience, at the EU week of Regions and Cities in 2021.
The International Relations Manager provided an overview of the Peace Plus Programme 2021-2027. She explained that this would be a replacement programme for the current Peace IV and Interreg Europe Programmes. She presented the following table of the 6 Thematic Areas and Eligible Activities that had been included in the draft Programme: