A local councillor has slammed a government minister for not allocating funding to councils for town regeneration.
UKIP Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr David Jones said Social Development minister Mervyn Storey had a ‘fake response to a real problem’.
He criticised Mr Storey for not allocating funding to councils for town regneration ‘even though he admits they are best placed to actually do the job’.
Cllr Jones added that ‘allocating money for white elephant public realms projects, is not tackling the core problem faced by most of our towns’.
“Shops, especially our small, independent traders, need to see significant rates reductions. That is what will determine if many businesses will continue to operate or not. Painting empty fake shop fronts is a fake response to a real problem. Traders in Portadown, Lurgan and Banbridge want a cut in rates and not pie-in-the-sky solutions to real problems.”
However, Mr Storey refuted the allegations explaining his department was to extend regeneration powers to local councils but that it ‘has not been possible at this time’.
He said he was ‘fully committed’ to the reform of local government and transfer of ‘key powers and responsibilities’ and refuted the allegation that he had withdrawn funding.
“In the case of public realm projects, both traders and shoppers and the general public are consulted in relation to the design, delivery and implementation of the scheme. Revitalisation projects are tailored to the needs of the individual town.”
“My officials are currently working in conjunction with ABC Council and following direct request of local traders on Lurgan Phase 3 Public Realm improvements which will commence in the New Year with circa £130k investment.
He added the DSD has invested £45m over the past eight years in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council areas and the setting of rates is not a matter for DSD but for local councils.