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Collaboration key in dealing with COVID & Brexit challenges

04 December 2020
Attendees at this week’s virtual North West Strategic Growth Partnership meeting that was held between senior Government officials from both the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government and civic leaders and officials from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council heard of the importance of cross border collaboration to deal with the challenges of COVID 19 and Brexit and to deliver on the planned regional growth projects.
The North West Strategic Growth Partnership, a unique structure that was first established in 2016 through the North South Ministerial Council, to provide support and discussion to the North West City Region, met virtually this week to get an update on the three key 'growth pillars' for growth in the region -  Economy and Business, Physical and Environmental Infrastructure, and Social and Community Cohesion and Wellbeing. 
Jointly led by Derry City and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council, and chaired by the two Mayors, the meeting was supported by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD),  where attendees heard at first hand about the ongoing collaborative work that is being done by the two Councils to continue to drive the ambitious growth plans for the region in terms of economic growth, investment, physical and environmental development as well as social and community cohesion and well-being. The Partnership also discussed deepening collaborative working with Central Government in both jurisdictions, across a range of key themes which are important for the region's future and which are also key Government policy priorities.
Deputy Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Alderman Graham Warke, speaking after the meeting said the Partnership meeting was  hugely important in updating both Governments on the excellent work being done on the ground to progress with strategic investment in the region and to hear at first hand from senior Government officials the level of commitment and support that is available to assist drive forward these ambitious plans for the region.
An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Rena Donaghey said the meeting was very important in getting all the relevant personnel together to provide updates and share information. She said the cross-border regional collaborative approach to delivering on the region’s plans for growth was the only way to do business.
Officials from the NIO provided updates in relation to the level of investment and support being provided by NI Government while senior civil servants from An Taoiseach’s Office gave an overview of the activities and priorities agreed by the Irish Government for the North West region.
Central to all the discussions at the meeting was COVID19 and the how the region is working collaboratively in dealing with the pandemic. Department of Health officials from both jurisdictions spoke of the high level of work being done on a North South co-operation level to manage the pandemic and plan for recovery.
Attendees participated in a plenary session looking at investment in the region’s third level education offering that was presented by representatives from the four key education institutions in the region – the Ulster University, the North West Regional College, LYIT and the Donegal ETB followed by a discussion around a Green Transformation Framework for the cross-border region and a North West Planners Forum, that were both facilitated by ICLRD.
Extending a big thanks to everyone participating in the meeting, Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie said it was more important than ever that these strong links with senior government officials are retained and re-emphasised the importance of collaboration. “This partnership is truly unique and this week’s meeting further emphasised the importance of regular communication, the alignment of our strategic policy plans and continued collaboration to allow us to deliver on our objectives and key strategic infrastructural and regeneration projects.”
John McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council said this week’s meeting was hugely beneficial in further strengthening links between the two Councils, its partners and the two Governments. He too emphasised the importance of collaboration saying it is key to successfully developing a City region that is thriving, sustainable and prosperous.