Council leader challenged on city/region deal

scotland-1607823This morning the Press and Journal contains an article with the headline “Inverness is in the money,” about the likely signing of the contract between Highland Council and both the British and Scottish Governments, that will see money allocated to the City/Region Deal released.

This £315 million package has been applauded by senior councillors and officers, as a fantastic deal for the Highlands. Yet, when questioned they seem unable to list any real tangible benefits for those areas outside Inverness and the Inner Moray Firth. That’s not surprising when you see details such as £15 million to turn Inverness Castle into a tourist attraction or £10 million for remedial work at the former Longman landfill site to create a new industrial estate.

Remaining unconvinced of the value of this deal to the wider Highlands, I’ve written to the Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson, challenging her to explain exactly what benefits will be felt in Lochaber. I’ve received a holding reply, but it will be interesting to see her fuller reply when it comes.

This is the text of my letter:

Dear Margaret,

By now you would have seen the article in today’s Press and Journal providing details about the City/Region Deal and the expected contract agreement that will enable the release of funds. This report appears under the heading, “Inverness in the money.” Even allowing for journalistic flourish, this sums up the whole view of the city/region deal as something predominantly benefitting the City of Inverness. The regional benefits that will come alongside this are likely to be limited to the Inner Moray Firth area, rather than those communities further away from the city.

Despite your protestations, both the administration and council officers have done little to convince those, like me, who remain sceptical of the wider benefits. Therefore, could you outline how each of the five projects listed in the article will benefit the communities I represent in Lochaber, both economically and socially? Additionally, will you indicate the expected proportion of the £315 million allocated for the city/region deal that will be spent directly in each of the areas outside the city?

With best wishes,

Andrew

 

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