Wednesday, 24 November 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
25. Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation the position regarding the future of area based partnerships; when new social inclusion measures will be agreed with the European Commission; the provision, if any, made under the national development plan for the continued operation of the partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24750/99]
102. Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of estate management committees that the uncertainty of future funding for partnership companies could put their work at risk; the plans, if any, the Government has to address this issue and secure the future of these initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24642/99]
The current programmes under the operational programme for local urban and rural development have made significant achievements in combating disadvantage and it is the Government's intention that the new national development plan will build further on these successes.
Under the new national development plan £420 million has been provided to continue and augment the valuable work done and activities engaged in by the area based partnership companies and community groups, local drug task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund. This provision represents a 50% increase over the levels of expenditure available to the existing programmes in these fields. This £420 million is the largest single allocation from the £1 billion earmarked for expenditure under the regional operation programmes in a special subprogramme for social inclusion.
This significant increase in funding is a clear expression of the Government's confidence in the value of the work done under these programmes. On 3 December I will meet PLANET, the representative body of the area based partnership companies, to discuss the future of the area based partnership programmes. The proposed areas for Structural and Cohesion Fund co-financing are outlined in the national development plan pending agreement with the European Commission. As the plan stands the social inclusion measures under the aegis of my Department will be fully supported by the Exchequer.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: I will give the Minister of State notice of some of the questions that he will be asked by PLANET in Athlone on 3 December. Following publication of the national development plan the area based partnership companies are greatly concerned. They are very disappointed that they are not specifically men tioned in the plan like other groups such as the county and city development boards, local drug task forces and Leader companies. Is there something that we are not being told about their future? What role will they play in urban and rural areas? Will they continue to operate in the areas currently covered by them or is this under review? When will the guidelines for the new operational programmes be issued and will the area based partnership companies be consulted for their views?
Mr. Flood: There is no intention on the part of the Government to diminish the areas of responsibility of the area based partnership companies which have done outstanding work under the current plan which is coming to an end. They have been extremely successful. They should take account of the fact that there has been a 50% increase in the funding available to them which is to be underwritten by the Exchequer and is reflected in the Estimates for next year. Their position has therefore been strengthened. I expect to them to play an increasing role in the programme to tackle social exclusion in the areas currently covered by them.
Mr. Flood: There is no specific reason. So far as the Government is concerned they will continue to play a significant role. I will deal with any concerns they may have when I meet their representative body, PLANET, on 3 December. I will also discuss with it the best means by which they can continue to be centrally involved in tackling social exclusion.
Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin: If the Minister is saying that the area based partnership companies need have no fears, why have they not received clarification or direction to enable board members, staff and the local communities concerned plan for the future? I have placed this matter on the agenda each time the Minister of State has answered questions in recent months and the position has still not been clarified. I have a difficulty in that they are not specifically mentioned in the national development plan. Will the Minister of State give an assurance that they will continue to operate in the areas currently covered by them?
Mr. Flood: The future of the area based partnership companies has been raised not just by the Deputy but also by Deputy Allen. Working in conjunction with ADM we were in a position to provide interim funding which will last well into next year. This is an indication that our support for them continues. I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of my discussions with PLANET. All I can say to the Deputy is that the partnership will be centrally involved and will continue to be so involved. I may  ask them to play an expanded role, although I am not in a position to go too deeply into that today, but I assure the Deputy that they will be centrally involved in the continuing attempt by the Government to tackle social exclusion.
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