Local UUP Councillor Stephen Nicholl says the newly established Mid & East Antrim Manufacturing Task Force must not be just “a talking shop” and has called for “urgency and commitment in delivering real outcomes”.
Councillor Nicholl, who is a member of the body which was established by Mid & East Antrim Borough Council and supported by three Government Departments, says it “cannot exist as a mere talking shop”.
“Instead it must focus on developing a key list of actions to present to the Northern Ireland parties in advance of the development of the new Programme for Government,” said Councillor Nicholl.
He continued: “I believe the Task Force needs to take the following actions - We need to quantify and identify the scale of manufacturing within Mid and East Antrim in order to understand the risk to our local economy.
“We need to engage with employers and identify the risks to manufacturing businesses, whether those are energy costs, skills development, transport to overseas markets or whatever undermines the ability of business to survive, grow and develop. We must develop an action plan of the interventions required to support business in this area, those interventions need to be included within the programme for government.
“The first meeting of the new Manufacturing Task Force has already been postponed once. Government Ministers were very quick to pass responsibility for this issue down to a local level. It is off their desks, it is now on ours. It is not our role to wring our hands and mourn the loss of 1000’s of jobs over the next three years. It is our role to deliver a new economic base for the region, it is our role to fight to replace them,” Cllr Nicholl stated.