Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Jun 2003

Vol. 569 No. 4

Other Questions. - Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan


83 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on his proposals for the future of the area based partnership companies when the current round of funding finishes in 2004; and the way in which the new role of the city and county development boards, in regard to the partnership companies, will be developed. [17740/03]

Gerard Murphy


84 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 84 of 27 May 2003, the situation regarding funding arrangements for the rest of 2003 for area partnerships and community groups. [217832/03]

I propose to take Question Nos. 83 and 84 together.

Deputies will be aware that one of my Department's primary objectives is to maximise the impact, coherence and effectiveness of the local and community development programmes for which it is responsible. With an overall objective of maximising the use of resources, the Department is also keen to foster closer liaison with parallel local development bodies and for city and county development boards to endorse plans from these various bodies.

As a first step towards achieving this objective, a review of the programmes and activities that fall within the remit of my Department is currently under way. This review seeks to achieve greater coherence across the various initiatives and, through improved delivery structures, to administer programmes that benefit our communities. The views of the relevant parties, including area partnerships, have been sought and will, of course, be considered in the course of this review.

As a further step, in the context of drawing up plans for 2003, area partnerships and community groups funded under the local development social inclusion programme have been asked to submit their 2003 work programmes – as approved by ADM – to the relevant city and county development board, CDB, for endorsement. This will allow the CDBs to examine and benchmark the work programmes against their own strategies and thus help to avoid duplication, bring about better co-ordination in service delivery and make the best use of resources.

As regards the question of funding arrangements in 2003 for partnerships and community groups, the position remains as I outlined to the House on 27 May last and on a number of other occasions recently.

Additional InformationAn amount of €44.6 million has been provided in the Vote of my Department for the local development social inclusion programme this year. This amount represents a decrease of 6% in the amount provided in the Estimates in 2002.

Area Development Management Limited manages the programme on behalf of my Department. Allocations from within the budget available for the programme in 2003 were agreed by the board of ADM earlier this year and were subsequently notified to each partnership and community group. As the Deputy will appreciate, ADM must manage the programme from within the budget available in my Department's Vote.

The reductions in available funding for 2003 were managed on a sliding scale, ranging from 4% to 7%, depending on the annual budget of the area partnership company or community group. I am aware that some partnership and community groups had the expectation of carryover of previous years' under-spending into 2003. However, my Department operates on an annual cash basis and not on an accrual basis, as do all Departments. Consequently, my Department is not in a position to facilitate a cumulative carryover of under-spending. However, the Deputies should note that ADM is working closely with the partnerships to minimise, as far as possible, the impact of the reductions in funding this year.

Finally, I want to acknowledge once again the valuable work being done by partnerships in disadvantaged areas.

I welcome in broad terms that at this point in the history of the partnership and Leader programmes, after 12 or 13 years, a review is envisaged. The Minister is involved in Iar Connacht in some of these initiatives. A number of partnership and local development bodies were pretty shocked to find this year that the county and city development boards were suddenly introducing protocol and effectively laying down the law and saying that this is how it will be from now on. There does not seem to have been much negotiation between people on the ground and city and county directors who are senior officials in the city and county councils. Has the Minister any plans to try to smooth that out and achieve better integration, bearing in mind that the best community bodies in the partnership and community development areas all have individual local membership and a real feel for what is happening on the ground? If they were to become more bureaucratic, they could end up being less effective.

On budgets, will the Minister accept that from now on there will be a rolling three-year budget and that if there are four-year programmes, budgets must be provided to ensure that those programmes are successful?

I accept that the money will go on year after year. However, what I cannot accept, because there is no provision in this House for it, is that I can carry forward money from one year to another. Until we change the way this House finances its own affairs, we cannot do that. I stress that it is much better discipline that those given money in a given year should set about spending that money within the year. Some of the partnerships did that and they have no problem. It is only the partnerships which did not go about their business, and were carrying all the money forward because they were not getting on with things, which thought they would have a bonanza year in year three, not having spent the money.

On a point of order, the Minister is misleading the House. He does not know what the issues are in individual partnerships. When working with groups such as those with disability, ex-offenders—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Allow the Minister to conclude.

The Minister is misleading the House.

I am not. The Deputy should think logically for a moment. Let us suppose a group is given €50,000 in each of three consecutive years and in year four and subsequent years receives €53,000. It would make a total nonsense of the operation if we allowed a situation to develop whereby if the group spent only €40,000 the first year and €40,000 in the second year, it could spend €70,000 the third year and fall back to €53,000 in the fourth year. An even spend is required, otherwise spending would go up and suddenly come back down. There is no other way of dealing with that. An even spend of money within reason is required one way or another. As I have said time and again, we front-loaded an extra €6 million into the system before Christmas last year to cover matured liability where some of the partnerships had gone ahead with projects. I do not accept what the Deputy says.

On the county development board, we should be clear what this is about. The county development board cannot and should not become the creature of the executives who work for it – if it does it defies its own logic. The idea seems to be growing in local authorities and county development boards that the executives are in charge of the board and not the other way around. That is a total inversion of the structures. Any board that allows that to happen is in dereliction of its duty.

The county development board is meant to be a partnership of all the interests, of which many also sit on the partnerships. If I was a member of a partnership which had been given the funding allocated this year I would see it as a massive opportunity because I have no doubt that while every county development board plan is full of platitudes and targets for disadvantaged areas in the county some of these are not acted on.

Partnerships can examine county development board plans and formulate and justify its own plans based on the county development board's vision, which I am sure encompasses all aspects of dealing with disadvantage. They can challenge and force county development boards to do something about disadvantage rather than providing for it in glowing terms in their plans. I have seen a number of county development plans and came across one which indicated that the Gaeltacht will get everything on the basis of a love for the Irish language and that everything would be done to address disadvantage. However, in some cases rhetoric is much better than action.

I see this as a good opportunity for the partnerships to tell county development boards that despite the partnerships acting in line with their plans, the boards complain about it. They must ask the boards what is wrong with the plans or is it the case that the board never meant them to be implemented. It is not a one way process where one party answers to the other, rather it is an opportunity for the partnership, as one of the main agents of dealing with disadvantage in the county, to put it to the county development boards that their plans must be acted on and implemented and that there can be no pious platitudes without action and good works to go with them.

In response to an earlier question, the Minister gave me a guarantee that funding would be cleared for the Leader programme. I accept he would like to see some of the partnerships linked, but will he confirm if the funding is guaranteed over the next two to three years?

In response to a question by Deputy Ring, the Minister assured him that the partnerships would deal with the fall-out from the destruction of the student jobs scheme, especially in disadvantaged areas. Given their curtailed budgets, how does the Minister expect the partnerships to deliver on that? I draw his attention to a case involving the two sons of a widowed woman who are desperately trying to find jobs but cannot because there is no summer jobs scheme. While there may be plentiful jobs in some areas, there is none in others. What will I tell this widow who has two sons of 20 and 21 years of age at home today because they cannot get work?

The numbers availing of the summer jobs scheme are small and the money available was small, considerably less than one would get in employment. I wanted, and asked, the partnerships to act as brokers in locating employment. It is my experience that in most parts of the country there is a huge requirement for seasonal employment, especially in the catering and tourism industries.

That is where there is a tourism industry.

Despite the fact that we are told there is a down-turn in the economy, I understand the number on work permits this year is likely to remain much the same as last year when it stood at 40,000. That does not take account of all those from other European Union countries who do not need work permits.

We are concerned here with third level students. Those who have not had second or third level education are at much greater risk in terms of being unemployed. There should be a greater focus on addressing their needs rather than those of third level students, who, having the advantage of being at third level, are much better placed to secure employment at the minimum wage during the holiday period. The minimum wage offers much better pay than what is available under the summer jobs scheme.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.