Other Questions. - Community Development Programmes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

93 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the cut in funding to the community development support programme. [3736/03]

This Department operates a range of grant schemes and community development support programmes. These offer a wide range of supports for local self-help groups, community development and the provision of seed money to enable groups to pilot initiatives to meet new and emerging community needs. Some €30.088 million has been allocated to community and voluntary services within my Department under subhead J for 2003. This includes provision for the community development support programmes. Although the overall provision represents a decrease on the 2002 provision, this allocation will enable my Department to meet its current core commitments to existing projects under the community development support programmes and will not impact negatively on their work.

It is not envisaged that the reduction in funding will negatively impact on the work carried out by community development projects. However, the allocation may mean that we will not be in a position to progress the expansion of the community development support programme at the same pace as we have done in previous years. Any further expansion in this regard will have to take account of our existing commitments and available resources.

Does the Minister of State accept that funding made available to the Department to allocate subsequently to community groups throughout the country comes not from the Exchequer but from the national lottery? The cut in this area of programming represents the most dishonest of the cuts that were introduced as a result of the Book of Estimates. At any time of economic austerity one can point to the fact that money must be brought in so that it can be spent but when a specific allocated fund is cut for purposes that have not been explained and where money is being used elsewhere without proper explanation, this in effect denies many who are dependent on this programme of the real support which they require.

Community development projects are the subject of a further question to be answered later today.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

There is a one minute time limit on supplementary questions.

The question will come up fairly soon so I will ask the Minister of State to respond to my initial query first.

I hope we are not denying support to any of the groups that need it. The allocation that we have will allow us to meet all current commitments. What is to be decided is how many of the new groups will get the go ahead.

It is 16%.

No. In relation to community development that whole area is about 7%. In previous years many community development projects were given approval and up to 30 are going through the system and ready for decisions. We will not be able to approve anything like 30 and we will have to make that decision in the coming weeks. We may allocate or approve perhaps half a dozen projects. Any existing ones which cater for community development programmes have nothing to worry about because their funding is protected. The Department is concentrating on real areas of disadvantage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Minister of State has exceeded one minute allowed for supplementary questions.

There are about 143 development programmes. They are too scattered and we need to narrow them down and focus on real areas of disadvantage.

My specific question was that this is funding which came through the national lottery and I ask where the real saving is being made. If the money was specified in a fund for community development purposes I ask why the Government is choosing to spend less of that in the next year and why it is not admitting that it is cheating the communities that have been dependent on these programmes. Why is there a fund that is ringfenced, or not ringfenced in this case? It should be protected despite economic circumstances because it does not depend on Exchequer funding.

It does. The Deputy may have a point but it is still allocated to the Department of Finance and it allocates the lotto money and that money is obviously going to other programmes. All expenditure whether raised by general taxation or by lotto or other means, is still part of overall Government expenditure and is governed by those confines and restrictions. We are given the allocation by the Department of Finance. That allocation is down a couple of per centage points from last year, but all existing groups will be fully funded.