By Daniel Hunter

An exciting £150 million investment package — aimed at boosting the local economy — has been unveiled by Belfast City Council.

The initiative has been led and developed by all six leaders of the council`s political parties, including Councillor Jim McVeigh (Sinn Fein), Alderman Robin Newton (DUP), Councillor Tim Attwood (SDLP), Councillor Maire Hendron (Alliance), Alderman David Browne (Ulster Unionists) and Alderman Hugh Smyth (Progressive Unionists), who hailed it as “can do” pro-active agenda to market Belfast globally.

Key aims of the three-year initiative are to support businesses, create employment opportunities, grow the local economy and provide economic infrastructure to ensure future competitiveness.

Plans for a Waterfront conference facility are among the highlights of capital investment. This £20 million extension to the iconic Belfast Waterfront will target the lucrative business tourism market.

“This programme has been developed and supported by all six of the political parties on Belfast City Council,” said Chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources committee, Councillor Deirdre Hargey.

“It is our commitment to address the economic downturn in Belfast and we believe it is the most significant initiative since Belfast Corporation was replaced by Belfast City Council in 1973. We will invest £75 million towards facilities for local communities and a further £75 million to support major partnership projects, local regeneration and key sectors such as tourism”.

“Because we have worked hard to ensure that the Council`s running costs will not rise, all of the money raised by the rates increase will allow us to support the investment programme with £20 million. This, in turn, will enable us to lever in money from other sources, including Europe, to ensure real value for money for our ratepayers. At the same time, we pledge to continue to deliver the level of efficiencies we have achieved in recent years, reaching £20m of savings by 2015. This is a win-win situation,” Councillor Hargey added.

“On behalf of all of the political parties on Belfast City Council, we are proud to announce this package and believe it represents the biggest single demonstration of our unity and commitment to serve the people of Belfast in the most effective and efficient way. Our aim is to make our great city even better”.

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