Saturday, 17 November 2012

Robinson and McGuinness promote local tourism at the Hong Kong Open

First Minister Rt. Hon. Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA promoted local tourism at the UBS Hong Kong Open.

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are pictured with Keith Williams (Manager of Hong Kong Golf Club) during a tour of the competition this afternoon.

The Ministers attended the tournament at the Hong Kong Golf Club, in Fanling, at the end of their week-long business mission to China.

Ministers are pictured holding the Ryder Cup with Mr Chi-Won Yoon, Chief Executive Officer of UBS Asia Pacific, the major sponsor of the Hong Kong Open.

The First Minister said: “The participation and success of local golfers has shone the international spotlight on Northern Ireland giving us the ideal opportunity to promote tourism.

“China is a significant emerging market and that is why we are working to build awareness of Northern Ireland as a tourism destination. Golf tourism currently generates over £14 million per year for the local economy in Northern Ireland, with the average spend per golf visitor coming in at £300-£450, significantly higher than the average visitor spend.”

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are pictured with Jamie Birkmyre, Championship Director of the UBS Hong Kong Open during a tour of the competition.

The deputy First Minister added: “As our golfers continue to play at the highest level of competitive golf around the world, more people will want to come to play the courses that our local golfers enjoy, and this will increase tourism spend in our local economy.

“Tournaments, such as the Hong Kong Open, represent a window to the world to gain further widespread exposure, and we are working to make the most of the opportunities created by our world-class golfers. Promoting our golf offering to an international audience and capitalising on the current global interest in our local golfers will help grow tourism here."

Ministers congratulate JP McManus scholarship recipients

Education Minister, John O’Dowd and Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry have congratulated the recipients of the JP McManus All Ireland Scholarship Scheme at a ceremony in Limerick.

The scheme, funded by JP McManus, provides financial assistance to students across Ireland from low-income households who are intending to take up higher education places.

Former US President Bill Clinton presented certificates to the 125 winning students, including 25 young people from the north. Ministers O’ Dowd and Farry were also recognised for their support of the All-Ireland Scholarship at the event.

Speaking from the University of Limerick Concert Hall, Education Minister, John O’Dowd said: “Many young people are keen to move on to higher education in order to develop their skills and pursue specific career goals. However those from low income families can find the financial costs associated with higher education to be a barrier to pursuing this career and study path. JP McManus’s continued investment and commitment to the All Ireland scholarships is to be commended. His generous support is particularly welcome at a time when many families are facing increased financial pressures.

“The skills and qualifications acquired through higher education can broaden horizons and prospects, benefiting not only the individual but also our wider communities. The value of these awards is therefore worth much more than the monetary cost; they offer the opportunity of third level education to young people who may previously not have had that option.

“I want to congratulate all of the recipients on their hard work and wish them every success in the future in their chosen studies and careers.”

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “I commend JP McManus for his continued generosity in providing these scholarships. The vision and practical support of people like him from the world of business shows that philanthropy can make a real difference to the lives of students looking to gain all the benefits from higher education. The award of a scholarship brings with it prestige but it also brings with it responsibility. I know our students will discharge that responsibility and will use their award to lay the foundations for successful and fulfilling careers that will not only be of benefit to them but also the wider economy.

“My Department’s recently published Widening Participation Strategy, Access to Success, demonstrates my commitment to ensuring that those who are most able but least likely to participate in higher education should be given every encouragement and support to achieve the necessary qualifications to apply to, and to benefit from, the higher education that is right for them. This Scholarship will help to support this commitment to widening participation by ensuring that all young people, irrespective of their background, have the opportunity to access higher education.”

The All Ireland scholarships provide financial assistance for up to 25 students per year, in the north, for studies at Undergraduate level. Scholarships are worth £5,500 per year with recipients coming from low income households and in receipt of Educational Maintenance Allowance. The ceremony took place on Saturday 17 November in the University of Limerick Concert Hall.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Freezing car parking charges until 2015 will give boost to city centres - Kennedy

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy has welcomed the decision from the Executive not to increase car parking charges.

Speaking after the Executive meeting today the Minister said: “My officials and I have been working hard to gain agreement for the freeze on car parking charges in this budget period and I am pleased that the Executive has come to an agreement on this issue. 

“This is exactly the sort of mechanism we need to give a confidence boost to traders and those who shop and work in our towns and cities and it illustrates that elected representatives can deliver positively for our own people. 

“I believe that this will be warmly welcomed by shoppers and traders in town centres and it comes at an opportune time in the run up to Christmas.”

Glyn Roberts NIIRTA Chief Executive also welcomed the decision. He said: “This is a very welcome development which NIIRTA has been lobbying for to give our town and city centres more support in these difficult times. This is an early Christmas present to both local traders and shoppers and we appreciate the efforts of Minister Kennedy in securing Executive agreement on this.”

The Minister concluded: “This freeze, combined with the package of measures to support retailers and consumers I announced on Monday, will give a much-needed boost to our local economy and encourage people to get the most out of our town and city centres this Christmas.”

The freeze on car parking will be for the remainder for this budget period, i.e. until the end of March 2015. 

For full details of the measures announced on Monday 5 November 2012 please visit nidirect

Executive announces £200million economy and jobs initiative

The Executive has announced a £200million economy and jobs initiative to support people, businesses and investment.

The new measures, which include support for more than 4,600 people through skills training and employability, are additional to the commitments in the Executive’s Programme for Government and Economic Strategy.

Welcoming the measures, First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I am pleased that we are able to announce this package which will provide a significant boost to the economy in Northern Ireland and provide employment, particularly for our young people and those who have been out of work for long periods. 

“This initiative comes on top of the £26million in additional funding recently announced as part of Delivering Social Change ‘Signature Projects’ and again shows that by working together the Executive continues to deliver on our Programme for Government commitment to grow the economy and contribute to rising levels of employment by supporting the promotion of over 25,000 new jobs." 

The deputy First Minister said: “The Executive is responding flexibly to the needs of those hit hardest by the recession and taking action to ensure those out of work have access to the right training, skills and education opportunities. These employment measures are particularly focused on the needs of young people to help them get into work. 

“The Executive is already committed to delivering over £5billion of capital investment in the current budget period. To boost employment in the construction sector this package will deliver a range of new measures to improve our schools, roads and accelerate nearly £60million of capital projects.”

Supporting People

Ministers are taking action to ensure that those out of work have access to the right training, skills and education opportunities. They are particularly focused on the needs of young people and other disadvantaged groups.

There will be waged employment opportunities for 1,700 young people of a minimum of six months duration within either the private, public or voluntary and community sectors. 

Around 1,100 over-50s, who have been out of work for more than 12 months, will take up temporary paid employment of up to 26 weeks in the Community and Voluntary Sector. 

Further employer engagement with ApprenticeshipsNI will mean up to 900 additional young people will participate in the Youth Employment Scheme.

An additional 500 undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths places will be funded each year, bringing the total increase in STEM places to 1,200 by 2015. This will enhance the skills base in priority areas for the NI economy. There will also be 150 fully funded PhD places and 20 bursaries for Aerospace MSc students.

A further 500 work experience placements/training opportunities for young people will be provided across the public sector as part of DEL’s Steps to Work Programme.

Supporting Businesses

The small business rate relief scheme will be extended to provide around 3500 business ratepayers with a 20% discount.

A new Invest NI ‘Skills Growth’ scheme will be introduced for small businesses (up to 50 employees) which would provide 50% grant towards training costs. 

Car parking charges in towns and city centres will be frozen until at least 2015.

An additional £15million will be available to ensure that farmers receive more money in their Single Farm payment in 2013. This will generate additional spending power for farm business from the end of 2013 and into 2014.

There will be a new ‘Finance Voucher’ scheme to help SMEs access the specialist support they need to grow their businesses.

Streamlined and ‘fast-track’ application & approval processes will be brought in for many Invest NI business support schemes.

Supporting Investment

The Executive is already committed to delivering over £5billion of capital investment in the current budget period. To boost employment in the construction sector there will be several new measures.

More than £40million will be available to deliver a range of projects in the current financial year which will support the construction sector. This funding will see further resources being made available to:
  • improve the schools estate (including addressing the consequences of the fire damage to Arvalee Special School);
  • undertake further roads structural maintenance; street lighting maintenance; emerging works along the Antrim Coast Road; 
  • £8million additional funding for the housing co-ownership scheme.
The maintenance budget for the Schools Estate will be increased by £10million in 2013/14.

Nearly £60million of capital spending will be accelerated to allow projects to commence in 2013/14 rather than 2014/15.

A further £10million will be available in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 through the housing co-ownership scheme. 

An extra £5.7milion of funding will go to the Tourism Development Scheme which could deliver total investment of over £27.5million, supporting over 450 jobs in the construction phase and creating or sustaining approximately a further 50 tourism jobs once complete.

There will be further reforms to planning, including changes to the Permitted Development Rights regime which enables developers to undertake works without the need to apply for planning permission and revisions to the structure of planning fees to alleviate the financial burden on developers.

Ministers will be available to provide more details of the measures under the particular control of their Departments in the coming days.