Wednesday, 30 November 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
49. Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the results of the review process carried out by his Department in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform relating to expenditure and its impacts on communities through the various programmes aimed at community development; the new programmes which are intended as a consequence of the review; the findings of the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37068/05]
Éamon Ó Cuív: The review of local and community development structures initiated by me and the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government commenced in 2003.
Deputies will be aware that the guiding principles-terms of reference for the approach were improving on the ground services, supports and impacts on local communities, from within existing levels of resources; streamlining and rationalising structures so as to avoid overlaps, duplication and undue administrative overheads; bringing transparency, co-ordination and improved control to the funding and operation of local-community development measures; and strengthening the democratic accountability of agencies and service providers in this area.
As I indicated in my reply to Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 of 4 February 2004, arising from the review, the Government agreed to a number of proposals to improve delivery of services on the ground; improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered; reaffirm Government’s commitment to local and community development programmes; and improve cohesion and focus across various measures and enable communities to more readily access and make maximum use of the funding available.
In line with this decision, community and local development groups across urban, rural and Gaeltacht areas were requested to bring forward measures for improved alignment of structures in their respective areas by mid-2004. This process was co-ordinated by the local county and city development boards, CDBs.
As a result of the process, Cohesion Funding in the amount of €3,248,600 was allocated during 2004 to support specific measures aimed at improving the co-ordination of service delivery at local level. These were mainly focused on improving current arrangements on resources, staffing and geographic coverage.
In 2005-06 I am making funding of €7 million available for measures focused on the alignment of local, community and rural development organisations to achieve full county-city coverage by 2006. In rural areas, this will involve Leader and partnership, including community partnership, groups coming together to secure a unified structure that will provide full area cover. The intention is to secure full coverage of the local development social inclusion programme throughout the State. It will also be possible to deliver schemes such as the rural social schemes through these unified structures because they have full area cover. Proposals from local and community development groups are being assessed by an external consultant engaged by my Department.
As indicated previously to the House, in line with the Government decision, new community development projects have been established on the basis of maximising recourse to existing structures. Of the 15 pre-development projects originally included in the community development programme, 12 are being delivered through existing community development projects or partnership companies. In addition, the funding available for intermediaries, such as regional support agencies, has been significantly reduced. This serves to maximise the resources available for community benefit. The number of such agencies with which my Department has a contract under the programme has been reduced from 13 to six. The six successful tenders commenced their contracts from 1 July 2004.
The process of restructuring ADM Limited has been progressed. The company name has been changed to Pobal and the necessary changes to the memorandum and articles of the company have been made to allow for Government to appoint the chair and members of the board. The Government has recently appointed seven new members.
Ms C. Murphy: I know the project was aimed at social inclusion. I wanted to tease out the definition of social inclusion with the Minister by way of a question. There are areas where nothing but houses are constructed and they are devoid of community facilities. This is a significant disadvantage as regards community development. Does the Minister anticipate the programme will capture that if it is to have full area cover? Will there be money available from these funds to deal with that and in what manner will they be dealt with? Bodies such as Combat Poverty and NARSA, the national institute for regional and spatial analysis, which is attached to Maynooth college, have mapped this as a type of poverty, in a recent publication and it is a useful finding. As the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was involved, was there any discussion on policies as regards the obligations on developers or, where the Part V provisions are not working, where community facilities cannot be achieved without additional funding directly from the State?
There is no doubt that significant difficulties will arise if community facilities are not put in place that allow young people to function as they should and allow voluntarism to develop rather than engaging in endless fundraising. If there is a village, for example, with the population of a town, with no facilities and no heritage of community, there is endless fundraising. This rules out the possibility of a very-——
Éamon Ó Cuív: The review process we were involved in was more about structures, it was not about community facilities, which is what the Deputy is referring to. That is why the answer focuses on what we have done to change the structures delivery. I will clarify precisely where we are at. A county such as County Kildare will have Leader companies, partnerships and so on. Every part of the country will be covered by an area-based company that will deliver a wide range of schemes, for example the rural social scheme, the LDSIP, the local development social inclusion programme, sometimes called the partnership programme, and in rural counties the Leader programme and others. Instead of two companies doing it, there will be one.
As regards the other issue raised by the Deputy, namely, the whole question of supervision of community centres and other necessary buildings, that is not my Department’s direct responsibility. However, as the Minister with responsibility for community, I have an absolute belief that each community must have the requisite buildings. Under a new arrangement where levies are being taken out of all developments, it is absolutely imperative, as the Deputy rightly points out, that local authorities provide that land is available and ensure that the fund is used to construct the community’s buildings.
I have repeatedly said that the idea of building housing estates without providing the necessary community facilities at the same time is the reason our Department must intervene time and again to deal with problems of anti-social behaviour, community breakdown etc. I fully accept the point made by the Deputy, although it was not the question that was asked.
Éamon Ó Cuív: My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, also has responsibility for housing and I have no difficulty in making my views known to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. There is a good working relationship between the two Departments. The Government is trying to bring an integrated approach to the whole scene which looks at communities in total. The reason our Department was set up was to take a bird’s eye view of community requirements and not to look at everything in sections, with each section accountable for certain areas. We must take the broader view. I accept the full thrust of what the Deputy is saying. She can be assured that we are engaged with this work. We have used funds to provide facilities in areas of the drug task force’s remit and so on. We are very focused on the need for integrated community development across various Departments and to ensure there is a joined-up approach towards this problem.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It can only be done if Deputy English appears before the end of Priority Questions. Question No. 51 will be taken now and if the Deputy is in the House by the time that is finished we will take it.
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