01 April 2006

Loyalist cash boost 'not enough'

BBC


DUP say there has been inequality in loyalist areas

A £30m cash injection expected to be announced for deprived loyalist areas is not good enough, a leading Progressive Unionist figure has said.

An official government announcement on the issue is expected next week.

Dawn Purvis said she believed more funds were needed to tackle deprivation in loyalist inner-city areas.

She said: "£30m over three years, I regard it as not enough. It's for vulnerable communities that have been neglected over the last 35 years."

Ms Purvis was recently appointed as an independent member of the new Policing Board, which comes into effect on Saturday.

Sources have told the BBC that the package of economic assistance for deprived loyalist areas should be between £25-35m.

Some sources within unionism have expressed disappointment at the sum, given the recent cuts in areas such as education in Belfast.

However, other loyalist sources said they saw the initiative as a challenge and would work with whatever money was provided for areas such as skills and training, housing and urban regeneration.

In January this year, NIO Minister David Hanson said the plan would focus on how government could empower working class Protestant communities to tackle deprivation.

It was drawn up following concerns that policies were not making the intended impact in loyalist districts.

On Friday, DUP assembly member Nelson McCausland said the announcement was significant as it was recognition of disadvantage in loyalist areas.

"Republicans and nationalists often attempt to deny that there is a problem and even some people in the voluntary sector attempt to deny that there is a problem," he told BBC News.

'Deprivation'

"For decades, unionist communities have suffered inequality and disadvantage... there will have to be institutional and structural changes."

However, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said he was not happy with the package.

"I think the minister is trying his best to put a package together to deal with deprivation in a number of areas - primarily loyalist areas - but not exclusively," he said.

"But the problem is that this is a cross-government issue. A couple of days ago, the Belfast Education and Library Board cut £6.5m out of its budget - a very high percentage of that cut will apply in loyalist areas.

"Given that educational under-achievement in the worst 15 wards in Northern Ireland - 13 are in loyalist wards - how can you fix a situation in a loyalist area when one government department is taking money out while another is putting it in?"

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