Speaking at the start of a full council meeting of Down District Council (on Monday 9 September), Chairman Councillor Maria McCarthy expressed her support for the workers threatened by redundancy at Crossgar Food Service. Her statement wa sfollowed by an emergency motion by Rowallene Councillor Terry Andrews.
Councillor McCarthy said: “I am saddened to learn of the loss of up to 60 jobs in Crossgar Food Service earlier this week. Crossgar Food Service isn’t solely an employer for the town of Crossgar but rather one of the principal employers across our District. It is imperative in this time of economic downturn that every effort is made to support business in our District, for both existing trade and industry, and for new businesses coming through. I am aware for example that another new poultry plant has opened and hopes to incorporate some the proposed job losses.
“As a local Rowallene councillor I have already written to Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, to ensure that our District is receiving all support possible from Invest NI. I would also as First Citizen encourage all those directly affected by this announcement to contact their local job centre and various advice centres across the District to ensure they are receiving all possible financial support during what will be a very difficult and worrying time.
“I must stress, however, that while it is important to acknowledging the job losses and the very real way people will be affected, that we also send out the message that Down District is open for business. Down District Council is willing in as far as our duties extend to support business through the various economic development programmes etc.
“It’s crucial that we as a Council are more determined than ever in bringing forward and bringing to fruition a plan of economic regeneration for the District and also in focusing on our natural strengths here in terms of outstanding areas of natural beauty and tourism.”
At the start of the Council meeting Rowallene Councillor Terry Andrews secured an emergency motion to have the Council agenda suspended under Standing Orders to unite the chamber in support for the workers facing redundancy. He said: “This is a serious blow to our district. It will affect many small towns and villages. We have seen constant economic decline with banks closing, shops putting up their shutters, our High Streets struggling, and a general feeling of gloom in the business world.
“Down District Council needs to be doing more to help where it can to ease the pressures our community is faced with. We need to send a clear message to the respective government departments that we need a better deal for Down District. The public and private sector has been hit in recent years and we need to come out of this downward spiral and find a way to create inward investment into the area.
“And we have to shop local, buy local, supply local. Businesses need to be supportive to each other too. The Council could maybe take a lead in this where possible. I believe too that all of the parties represented in the chamber should be talking to their MLA’s and MP’s and getting them to seek action for change at Stormont and Westminster. We need policies in place to help down District. Historically we have always been blackballed. It is time this stopped.
“I proposed that we send a delegation to meet the DETI Minister Arlene Foster and this delegation should include the Rowallene Councillors. As an Independent Councillor I am keen to work with everyone to see this situation improve. We must do what we can for those who will be losing their jobs, but we must also look to the bigger picture of the economic strategy for this area.”
What The Councillors Said
Councillor William Dick (DUP) also commented on the job losses at Crosgar Food Service saying that everyone was “saddened” by the recent news. He said: “This underlines the times we live in. We need to help those losing their jobs where we can.”
Councillor William Walker (DUP) added: ‘It was a very sad day for the district. We need to do more as a council about jobs and the economy. We have to concentrate our actions and certainly we need to meet the Minister and see what can be done.”
Councillor Mickey Coogan (Independent) said: I fully support this emergency motion. We need a prolonged engagement with the Economy Minister and we do need to ensure that all the government schemes are in place to provide support. We also need to ensure that all the help available for SME’s is clearly accessible before local businesses get to the point of collapse. We don’t want to see companies going down the drain.”
Councillor Dermot Curran (SDLP) said: “I support this motion. This is an example of how we need to work together and fight for jobs in Down District.
Councillor Willie Clarke (Sein Féin) said: “If rules were relaxed more for small businesses then this might help local companies.”
Councillor Stephen Byrne (Sinn Féin) said: “I agree with the motion. I call on all politicians to set up initiatives to help the local business sector. It is clearly an embarrassment when ‘shop local’ leaflets are not printed in the district. Local people need to be doing the work more.”
Councillor Robert Burgess (UUP) said: “People knew that once there was a take over of Crossgar Food Services that there was likely to be redundancies. Is is a sad day.”