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Ian Paisley MP has this week welcomed the news that a significant number of local projects have benefited from the Big Lottery Funds’ ‘Awards for All’ programme.
There were in fact eight different groups across Ballymena, Ballymoney and Ballybogey who were successful in their applications to the scheme.
In Ballymena the North Ballymena Community Cluster received £6527. The Community Cluster represents and supports a number of voluntary and community groups in the north Ballymena area. They are using the grant to run a series of activities that will bring older people together such as lunches, gardening, arts, crafts and away trips.
The Ballymena Substance Users Support Group were awarded £8511. The group supports people affected by drug and alcohol misuse in the town. The grant is being used for training that will increase the support they can provide to the group’s members, equipment and activities such as cookery classes.
Mr Paisley commented “Substance abuse is something that we do everything we can to eliminate from the area and we have a responsibility to protect users and help them to overcome their addictions. The Support Group are an exceptionally worthy recipient of Big Lottery funding.”
The Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum were also awarded over £8000 to help them with the services they offer to the ethnic minorities in Ballymena. The project will provide bi-lingual interpreters to signpost members to support and information services, as well as supporting the group’s users to integrate into the local community.
Rasharkin Community Association received £3596 to help them provide a range of social activities for local residents. They are using the grant for a programme of events, which will include hip hop dancing, floral art and table tennis, which will be promoted at an open evening to mark the community centre’s re-opening.
Ballymena Academy also received £8000 to go towards purchasing new outdoor gym equipment that will be accessible to pupils, parents and the wider community.
Two grants were also awarded to Ballymoney organisations and one in Ballybogey.
Fuse FM is a community radio station in Ballymoney who were awarded £10,000. The grant is to be used to bring local people together through two fun days, one in winter and one in summer as well as a Scottish ceilidh.
The town’s Bowling Club also received £10000 to go towards improvements to the club building to allow wider community use, while the Ballybogey over 50’s Club received £9318 to provide classes and social outings for older people in the community. The grant will specifically cater for trips, craft and community classes as well as a monthly luncheon club.
Ian Paisley added “I cannot stress enough how important a role the Big Lottery Fund play in allowing these wonderful programs to function. The services that these grants afford the people of North Antrim are truly priceless and once again my gratitude goes out to both the lottery and the group co-ordinators who display such invaluable dedication to their local communities through these various initiatives.”

Ian Paisley MP has spoken out against the Treasury for the ‘alarmingly slow’ rate at which compensation is being paid out to victims of the Equitable Life scandal.

Speaking in the House of Commons today the North Antrim MP remarked “This week we’ve had announcements that bonuses will be paid to bankers, banks which are controlled by the public purse. They will take the personal decision to refuse those bonuses if they so wish. At least they have the choice. These people who have suffered under Equitable Life have not had that choice and I hope that the Treasury is listening today. If this government are expecting the support of certain opposition parties to form another government then they had better address this issue before the end of this term.”

The Treasury achieved a surplus of £8.8 billion at the end of January when only £6.5 billion was predicted. Various MPs supported Mr Paisley in his calls for a proportion of that money to be put aside to help in speeding up the process of fully compensating all the victims of this scandal.
Speaking after the debate Ian Paisley said “There are 945,000 policy holders who have received a mere 20% of their losses from ELPS. If you take this figure, add their spouses, children and parents, you could be looking at up to five million voters indirectly affected by this. That is a figure the government and opposition will both have to take very seriously. It has been accepted that losses of £3 billion were incurred by victims, a staggering figure and a significant number of my constituents are among the near one million people.”

“From this debate I will be pursuing this government and the next vigorously to ensure that this issue does not fall by the wayside. I am confident that my opposition to this disgracefully slow repayment system will gather significant support from my parliamentary colleagues across the house and my concerns will be addressed accordingly.”

“There is no better time than in the run-up to what is undoubtedly going to be the closest General Election in recent history to press the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet to pledge increased support for victims and speed up the rate at which compensation is paid out. It is vital that this issue remains at the forefront of parliament’s order of business in the run-up to the House of Commons dissolution and I feel that this week’s debate has gone a long way to ensuring that this remains the case.”

Church Street Tesco Closure

January 28, 2015

I have been officially notified this morning that the Tesco store on Church Street in Ballymena and two other stores in Belfast are to close on 15 March. This will effect 16 employees.

I understand these closures are part of 43 closures being announced across the entire UK as a result of profit share loss in the companies annual returns.

Ballymena’s large flagship store at Ballykeel is “fine” according to Tesco whom I spoke with this morning. The closure of the express store is a blow to city trade in Ballymena town centre that is finding it increasingly difficult to attract new businesses and keep the town centre thriving. I am calling on civic and business leaders to meet with me and discuss ways to improve the offering that Ballymena can boast. Obviously anything that potentially damages the town centre must be avoided and anything that promotes it must be encouraged.

I understand that the 16 employees in Ballymena will be offered the opportunity to re-deploy across the company.

Speaking this week in the House of Commons on the Stormont House Agreement, the question of what the specifics of the ‘asset sales’ that had been agreed to be retained entirely by Northern Ireland were.

The Secretary of State responded “It is important that the Executive give proper consideration to those and all other assets of a similar nature, but it would not be right for me to prejudge what sale proposals the Executive might develop. Each asset will be considered in relation to the provision in the agreement’s financial annexe.

Jobs Fair a Huge Success

October 3, 2014

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley and The Department for Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey MLA this week co-hosted a Jobs Fair in the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney.

The event, held on Thursday, had over 35 businesses and other exhibitors in attendance, all of whom were either directly promoting employment opportunities within their organisation or promoting initiatives to assist young people in finding employment.

Mr Storey explained “We are absolutely delighted at the response we received from local businesses when we approached them about the fair. No fewer than 24 of the participating businesses are actively recruiting for specific posts within their organisation here today.

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, Ballymoney Mayor Bill Kennedy, Damien McAdams from the Department for Employment and Learning and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, Ballymoney Mayor Bill Kennedy, Damien McAdams from the Department for Employment and Learning and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

For the last three months unemployment in North Antrim has reached its lowest point (5%) since before the last General Election in 2010, well below the Northern Ireland average of (6.3%).

Mr Paisley explained “The businesses and exhibitors at today’s fair have a combined total of over 800 potential job opportunities available to our young people. If those 800 positions were filled that would push this constituency’s unemployment levels below 4% and make it one of the lowest in the UK. The bus loads of school people that have been arriving all day highlights the important role that events like today’s provide and we are very eager to try and mirror this fair in our other towns such as Ballymena and Ballycastle.”

Ian Paisley has called upon the government in London to open a fresh period of consultation with regards to the re-locating of all of the UKs motor vehicle licensing administration to a centre in Swansea, which commenced earlier this year, closing all centres across the rest of the UK in the process, costing thousands of jobs.
Mr Paisley commented ‘There was cross-party solidarity from all of the Northern Ireland representatives in Westminster objecting to these proposals. We could not stress enough how important it was that Northern Ireland centres, especially the centre in Coleraine which employed over 300 staff, should be left out of this re-structuring given the complexities that are unique to this country as the only member of the United Kingdom who share a border with a non-UK nation.
Ryan McKinney of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) explained “When we met with officials from DVLA in Swansea they were at pains to reassure us that there would be no glitches, yet we now know that the public are experiencing problems with even the most basic functions. I am concerned that more complex processes such as the replacement license disks for imports and re-registrations and cherished transfers will cause more severe delays for the motor trade and hauliers. This will have a knock-on effect on trade and the economy.”
A delegation of NIPSA staff and MPs met with the Department of Transport on various occasions in London to air their concerns to the government as well as delivering a petition directly to Downing Street containing over 30,000 signatures objecting to the closures.
“We left those various meetings feeling positive, not only by the fact that we had been granted them in the first place, but also by how understanding the department appeared to be with our arguments. Therefore it was very disappointing when I later received written confirmation from the Department of Transport that the proposals to re-locate to Swansea were going ahead” said the MP for North Antrim.
Mr McKinney also noted ‘Our colleagues in Scotland highlighted these exact same frustrations this time last year when the Swansea base was exposed as being completely overcome by the workload that Scottish licensing requirements had placed upon them. Yet the government chose to add Northern Ireland to the workload as well, it’s nothing short of shambolic.”
Mr Paisley concluded ‘It is not too late for the government to hold their hands up and admit they perhaps underestimated the complexities that Northern Ireland motor vehicle licensing issues generate. We have our highly trained staff still sitting here, readily available to take over this workload if parliament would take the path that makes clear sense and revert back to allowing Northern Ireland to take care of itself on this issue.”

The Wright Group have today announced the order of over 400 buses to be exported to Singapore.
The order, which will be manufactured in Ballymena will effectively build the buses in ‘flat pack’ form before exporting them.

The company already have strong trading links with Singapore and this latest order will add to the 1015 buses that have already been purchased by SBS transport in Singapore from Wright Group, which will bring the total number on the roads to 1430.

Mr Paisley commented “I welcomed the High Commissioner of Singapore to North Antrim several months ago and he was very keen to visit the WrightGroup site. I was delighted to introduce him to senior staff of the company. Furthermore I met with the High Commissioner in London yesterday as this deal was being finalised.”

WrightBus place a lot of emphasis on their commitment to renewable energy and are leading the way in incorporating climate friendly products. Last month the company announced their latest office in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East. The area of Abu Dhabi where the offices will be based, Masdar City is powered entirely by renewable energy as part of a government initiative to develop sustainable working and living.

Steve Harper, Business Development Director for Wrightbus International, said: “This latest order is part of SBS Transit’s on-going programme to completely renew its fleet and provide ‘greener’ vehicles for the benefit of passengers and the wider Singaporean environment.”
“As a long standing supplier, we’re delighted to have been awarded this latest contract from SBS Transit to supply a further 415 double deck buses in conjunction with our partner Volvo Bus. Featuring the distinctive and stylish Wrightbus body, these tri-axle, air conditioned, 12m buses have been specifically developed and designed to meet the stringent requirements of the Singapore climate and high passenger numbers.”
Mr Paisley concluded “This is a wonderful example of how strong the manufacturing industry is in Northern Ireland and we should be very encouraged about how prosperous our international trade relations are turning out to be and look set to develop even further.”

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has expressed his delight at the announcement from the Wright Group of the creation of 130 new jobs based at their Antrim site.
“This is fantastic news for the local economy and employment in the area. Wright Group are a company going from strength to strength and we a extremely fortunate to have them based in North Antim.”
The jobs, 70 of which have already been put in place will average a salary of £19.5k. The remaining posts will be filled over the course of the next two years.
Mr Paisley noted “In the economic climate that we now operate in, everyone in business knows that research and development is a critical factor in helping business in the UK flourish as we look to work our way out of the recession. This significant investment in to research and development shows how the Wright group are championing this ethos as they continue to go from strength to strength.”
WrightBus are best known as of late for providing the new London buses, better known as ‘Boris buses’ after the Mayor of London who sanctioned their production. “The company have strong trading links across the globe and it is great to see them continue to reinvest as they build upon their already great history of success.”

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has suggested that the decision to close the DVA centre in Coleraine was short-sighted and has not taken Northern Ireland specific considerations in to account.

Mr Paisley was reacting to a letter received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond MP which confirmed, despite strong opposition to the proposals which look set to cost 300 people their jobs in Northern Ireland, that the government will proceed with the closure.
“It is extremely disappointing that the government have decided to go ahead with their initial proposals despite the disastrous affect it will have for employment in the North coast.”
“Coleraine losing 300 jobs is the equivalent of Birmingham losing 13,000 jobs, imagine the outcry if they tried to implement that?”
The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) has been working to try and persuade the government to reverse their decision ever since it was first proposed almost two years ago. Representatives of NIPSA along with a group of Northern Ireland MPs including Mark Durkan of the SDLP and Mr Paisley’s DUP colleague Gregory Campbell presented a petition to 10 Downing Street with over 20,000 signatures assigned to it.
NIPSA Spokesman Ryan McKinney said “The Coalition Government have not heard the last of the DVA campaign. They seem incapable of understanding that after two years of campaigning we are going to be difficult if not impossible to silence. We have overwhelming public and political support and staff have nothing to lose. The focus must now turn to securing other civil service work for DVA staff. However the work must be brought to the workers not the other way around. We can’t turn our backs on Coleraine in the way the government have. The fight goes on!”
All vehicle licensing looks set to be relocated to Swansea and Scotland has already seen all of its offices closed as part of the move. Mr Hammond’s letter read “As centralising vehicle services provides annual savings of £12million the case for retaining a local office network in Northern Ireland is not a strong one, especially when all the other local offices have already closed.”
However Mr Paisley has claimed that the government have made no acknowledgement of the different dynamics of vehicle licensing in Northern Ireland from that in the rest of the UK when making this decision.
“We are the only country in the UK that shares a border with a non-UK country. Our licensing laws have to cater for the movement of cars both to and from the Republic of Ireland. Our local staff are well versed in these procedures. Sadly if this decision by Mr Hammond is upheld then by the time the government realise that Swansea will not be able to provide a service anywhere near as efficient as the one that currently exists, it will be too late. Huge backlogs are already being experienced as a result of the closure of the local branches in Scotland, adding Northern Ireland motorists and the complexities of cross-border travel to the workload makes no sense. £12million is a very small saving on the grand scheme of things and it is a shame that Northern Ireland drivers are going to suffer as a result of this disappointing decision by the government.”