Other Questions - Community Development.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 676 No. 5

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  43.  Deputy Jack Wall  Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall   asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs  Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív   if his Department provides grants to community groups for the restoration and upgrading of buildings in their communities, which have fallen into disrepair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8948/09]

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  The programme of support for locally based community and voluntary organisations provides funding towards the costs of refurbishing and equipping community facilities. Given the volume of applications received to date, the level of commitments to projects approved for funding to the end of 2008 and the reduced level of funding available this year, I regret that I have had to suspend the programme since the end of February. It is unlikely that my Department will be in a position to open the programme again in the near future. My priority is to fund as many of the applications as possible that have already been received.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  This is a vital ingredient in restoring community life. In many areas there are buildings of historical value as well as of community value. These need grant assistance to create community activities in the area. In my area we are trying to organise a number of artists to use an old school building as a studio. There is the Tanyard in Ballitore, for which we are seeking funding. How many applications were received in 2008 and what funding is being provided? Is there a waiting list and is there any instance in which the grant system can be restored for 2009?

The grant does a number of things. It helps the community and, more importantly as of now, creates employment in many cases because buildings must be restored. That has a spin-off with regard to the local hardware store and so on. It is very important that we look at this as there are too many factors that cut off the local builder. The same thing is happening with the grant system relating to senior citizens. We are acting right across the country to the detriment of employment; we are not providing funding, we are cutting back instead. This is another instance of it. Will we see any funding provided to allow the scheme to continue?

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I will try to be as helpful as possible. The scheme fell into three sections, with refurbishment grants to upgrade premises used for community benefit in the ownership of the local community and voluntary organisations. That goes to 95%, up to a maximum of €60,000. There was also a maximum grant of €10,000 towards the cost of equipment for community facilities, with a third section being the training grant.

With specific reference to figures, we currently have 180 projects on hand. I decided to suspend it because it would be unfair to give groups and organisations an unrealistic hope of putting an application in where there may not be funding. The 180 have not been assessed but I anticipate that the current funding would be sufficient for these projects, if they are successful.

We have had to make some difficult decisions this year. Earlier, the Deputy spoke about trying to preserve funding for our community development projects. Deputy Byrne spoke about preserving funding for the task forces, and the likes of the task forces and competency development programmes will continue to provide front line services as they are being prioritised.

[75]We could have looked at making alterations in other programmes I felt strongly about, including the scheme we run for elderly people with regard to monitored alarms. We have made an allocation for that programme and have not touched it. We have had to make difficult choices.

The Deputy asked if the scheme will be introduced again. It is suspended pending the take-up of the 180 projects. If there is funding left, the scheme will be introduced again. It would be unfair to communities to draw up proposals and apply for something when there may be no realistic prospect of receiving funding. It is regrettable that we are here but there must be priorities. My priority is to support the drugs task forces and community development projects that the Deputy has spoken about, as well as the monitored alarms for the elderly. That is why the scheme has been suspended.

Deputy Jack Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  We must obviously make choices but we must also look after communities. In dealing with drugs and everything else, we must create the image of communities working together. These are ideal opportunities in that respect. There should be a quick assessment of the 180 projects. Much lottery funding has not been drawn down and there is no lottery funding this year. Something should be done to ensure those which did not draw down funding get a positive or negative answer, otherwise we will be depriving another community. I would be happy if only ten communities get the grants but we should not allow just wait for somebody to make a decision. If this occurs, the momentum is lost. If those with the applications in do not carry out the work, the opportunity should be given to somebody else.

Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  I agree with the Deputy and that is what we are trying to do. The maximum is €60,000 and it is not like a couple of hundred thousand euro is being spent on a sports facility. In some cases people in my Department work with people in the community to try to afford them the opportunity to complete the applications or get the additional information rather than telling them they are out because of a failure to supply information. There is a balance in supporting those communities in completing the process. There is also a policy of not allowing an overhang that will delay the system, meaning others who may benefit are being deprived.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

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