Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to accept funding of more than £230,000 from the Department for Communities to aid economic growth in the borough through its interim labour market partnerships.
At December’s meeting of the local authority, councillors were advised a letter of offer for £236,200 has been received from the Department for Communities and it will cover the operational costs associated with the interim labour market partnership for the period April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
This funding is in addition to the £86,559.13 previously received for the administration and set up costs associated with the programme which aims to address local skills challenges in the economy and support local people to get into work.
The £236,000 operational funding will see an ABC HGV programme established to address the chronic shortage of HGV drivers, a business start up support programme for 16-24 year olds and a Covid response employment programme with direct and specific interventions to reskill in areas where demand exceeds supply.
The funding will also be used to support, amongst other things, investment in further research and strategic assessment to inform priority themes in action plans for subsequent years, the development of a robust and flexible action plans for subsequent years and the procurement of delivery agents for LMP programmes to commence in April 2022.
It was also explained that no match funding would be required from the council to accept this letter of offer.
Commenting on the report, Councillor Darryn Causby thanked council officers for their efforts in bringing this to fruition and said it was his understanding ABC is the first council across Northern Ireland to receive this letter of offer.
“It is good to see this council and particularly this department, is leading and innovating across Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I am happy to welcome it and wish the team well for the delivery of it and thank them for their foresight in brining this to our attention and I am happy to propose we accept it.”
DUP group leader, Councillor Mark Baxter seconded his party colleague’s proposal and described the funding as a “very good news story” for the borough.
“All credit must go to the team for getting us to this stage where there is a letter of offer in front of us for almost a quarter of a million and that has to be welcomed,” he said.
“In particular the HGV scheme is good to see. We know this shortage has caused a lot of problems for businesses right across the United Kingdom and indeed the Republic of Ireland.
“There are a lot of people out there who would make excellent HGV drivers but the sheer cost of going through the test and doing tall that is quite problematic for them.
“I will be very interested in what this programme will look like and how it will help local people in our borough take this up and get them into employment.”