Alliance Councillor David Armitage has questioned why the DUP and UUP remained silent on potential job losses in East Belfast, after both failed to support an Alliance motion urging the Agriculture Minister to overturn the decision to relocate DARD to Ballykelly.
Questioning the logic behind the move, Councillor Armitage said the costs of the project could be put to better use if redirected to frontline services – adding he was disappointed the majority of Councillors present opted not to support the 86 percent of DARD employees who are against the move.
The motion comes as Alliance continues its push for Minister Michelle O’Neill to rethink the decision – that is expected to have a serious impact on services and lead to a number of job losses in East Belfast – and follows East Belfast MP Naomi Long’s meeting with the Minister earlier on Monday and previous meetings with trade union representatives.
Councillor David Armitage said: “Alliance will continue to lobby the Minister until this project is put on hold. I would have thought the East Belfast representatives from the DUP and UUP would have been keen to see these jobs remain in the area. I am disappointed at the level of hostility this motion faced in the chamber and was shocked to see the DUP and UUP sit on their hands and abstain on the issue.
“In times of austerity, wise decisions need to be made and while decentralisation and investment in all areas of Northern Ireland should be welcomed, this move is not supported by a robust business case and has the potential to drastically alter the services offered by the Department.
“With over 750 members of staff currently working at Dundonald House, statistics have shown 86% do not want to move to the North West. Work/life balance, family commitments and travelling time will leave workers with a tough choice to make – move to Ballykelly, try to secure a new role within the civil service or take early retirement.
“I must question the Minister’s on-going commitment to a project that will need around £44 million to succeed – especially at a time when cuts are putting additional pressures on already strained budgets.”