Written Answers. - Departmental Programmes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

105 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he intends to extend the CLÁR Programme; if Listowel rural area will be included, in view of the decline in the population in the recent Census; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3526/03]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

111 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the total projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3684/03]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

137 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the advantages that CLÁR will bring to the newly designated regions announced recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3579/03]

Willie Penrose

Question:

152 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made with regard to his Department's examination of the analysis commissioned from the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis at Maynooth, which is required to assist in the review of the CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3685/03]

Dan Neville

Question:

164 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the future operation of the CLÁR programme in view of the fact that the CLÁR budget for 2003 has been cut by 25% from ?12.7 million to ?9.5 million and that he has now extended the CLÁR area from a population of 284,000 to 360,000. [3659/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105, 111, 137, 152 and 164 together.

I launched the CLÁR programme, Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais, for disadvantaged rural areas on 5 October 2001.

The 16 areas selected were those which have suffered the greatest depopulation since 1926, with the exception of the Cooley peninsula, which was included based on the serious difficulties caused for that area by foot and mouth disease. The average population loss in those areas was 50% and the total population to benefit from the programme was 284,000.

Following my consultations with the communities in the selected areas, the priorities identified were addressed under the various measures introduced in 2002 under the programme. These measures were agreed with the lead Departments or State agencies, as appropriate. Other measures may be introduced this year, depending on needs identified.
In 2002, €14.14 million was spent under the various measures. It is not practical here to list all the measures and the expenditure details, so I am arranging to send them to the Deputies in the next few days.
I am currently considering, in consultation with the other Departments and agencies, the allocations I propose to make for measures in 2003.
An Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. Arising from the analysis of the preliminary 2002 population census results, which I commissioned from NUI Maynooth, the Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these additions on 17 January last.
The number of DEDS in the revised programme has increased from 701 to 890 and the total population in the programme has increased from 284,000 to 362,000. Waterford is the only new county with areas being included. The average decline of population in the revised CLÁR areas is now 49.89%, excluding the Cooley Peninsula, the decline would be 50.32%.
Although the provision for CLÁR programme is reduced from the 2002 allocation, I expect that I will be able to complete a comprehensive work programme in 2003. For example, I do not expect the exceptionally high level of expenditure on class 111 roads – nearly €7 million of the €14.14 million I spent in 2002 to arise again this year.
CLÁR funds act as a lever to elicit funds from other sources. The 2003 CLÁR allocation will be sufficient to continue this leverage and so sustain an effective programme.
The Listowel rural DED was not included in the revised areas in County Kerry as the DED showed an increase in population – 1926-1996: +3.97% and 1926-2002: +4.32%.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

106 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the total projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3683/03]

Bernard Allen

Question:

121 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date of the Rapid programme; and the projects and funds sought and allocated to each project. [3783/03]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

139 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if moneys spent to date on the RAPID and CLÁR programmes represent a gross disappointment to communities whose expectation had been raised by Government announcements, in failing to spend any significant amounts of money, or bring about any quick delivery of necessary social infrastructure. [3734/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106, 121 and 139 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, RAPID is a focused initiative by the Government to target the most concentrated areas of disadvantage in the country. The programme calls on Departments and State agencies to bring about better co-ordination and closer integration in the delivery of services. There are two strands of the RAPID programme – strand I targets 25 urban areas while strand II targets 20 provincial towns around the country.

I should point out that it is the role of my Department to co-ordinate the implementation of the RAPID programme. It is, therefore, a matter for individual Departments to report on progress in relation to implementing RAPID proposals that fall within their own remit.

In each of the areas, an area implementation team was established to prepare a plan. Plans were approved by the relevant city or county development boards, prior to being sent to the national co-ordinator for the programme at Area Development Management, ADM, Limited. Proposals from the plans were then forwarded to the relevant Department for consideration.

The scale of the proposals in the plans is large and in many cases, the work involved in analysing projects is proving to be intensive. In addition, there are a number of indicative projects contained in the plans which have required additional information so as to enable Departments to clarify the nature, scale and cost of the projects.

While progress in implementing the plans has been slower then anticipated, I think Deputies will agree that there is a need for some time to be granted to the funding agencies to enable them to consider the plans to ensure that the correct decisions are made and that the required funding is available to meet the priorities identified in the plans. In the meantime, it is important that the other key element of the RAPID programme, bringing about greater coherence in the delivery of all social inclusion measures, is addressed and implemented.

As regards my own Department, proposals from the RAPID plans fall to be considered under the young peoples facilities and services fund, YPFSF, the community development programme, CDP, the CAIT initiative and funding for local drugs task force projects. The total estimated cost of these proposals is in the region of €65 million.

In the case of proposals relevant to the YPFSF, the position is that the national assessment committee, NAC, of the fund, which is chaired by my Department, is currently examining capital proposals submitted by the development groups under round two of the fund. With regard to services projects, the committee is awaiting the completion of the external evaluation of the fund before seeking such proposals under round two. The first draft of the evaluator's report was received in mid January 2003 and is being examined by the NAC at present. Proposals submitted under the RAPID plans will be considered in the context of decisions to be made under round two and in light of the overall funding position for 2003.
A number of proposals in RAPID plans relate to the community development programme. While there has been no additional allocation of funding in respect of community development projects to date, the Deputies should note that in many cases pre-development work is under way. The full establishment of groups as community development projects in 2003 is subject to available resources but those in RAPID areas will receive due priority.
As regards proposals in strand II plans for funding under the CAIT initiative, the budget has been fully committed to the successful proposals submitted between March and May 2002. No additional funding is available to distribute among project proposals received since then.
A number of proposals from the RAPID plans are being pursued through the local drugs task forces. Regarding CLÁR, I refer the Deputy to my replies this afternoon to questions on this programme.
It is important to restate that the Government remains committed to the RAPID Programme and its implementation. The 45 areas selected have been consistently targeted as areas of special need through various Government interventions over the past few years and this will continue under the implementation of the different RAPID plans.
In this context, the Deputies should note that my officials have had a number of bi-lateral meetings with other relevant Departments over the past few months to try and advance the implementation of the programme and I would hope to meet with my ministerial colleagues in the other Departments in the coming weeks to further advance the plans.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

107 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps which have been taken to implement the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government, that each relevant Department will allocate specific staff whose principal duty will be to ensure that the Department is effectively engaged with the RAPID communities along the lines of the final report of the integrated services process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3677/03]

The Deputy will be aware that the RAPID programme is a focused initiative by Government to target the most concentrated areas of disadvantage in the country. Priority attention is given under the programme to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the designated areas through front-loading State resources, available under the national development plan. The programme also calls on Departments and State agencies to bring about better co-ordination and closer integration in the delivery of services.

There are two strands of the RAPID programme – strand I targets 25 urban areas, and strand II targets 20 provincial towns around the country. While the allocation of specific staff to deal with the RAPID programme is a matter for individual Departments, the Deputy may wish to note that a series of meetings, at official level, were held between my Department and other Departments during the latter part of last year to progress the implementation of the RAPID Programme. From discussions at these meetings, I am satisfied that Departments have put in place sufficient staff resources to deal with the RAPID programme.