Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Dara Calleary


1. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number and value of approved projects being funded under the rural regeneration and development fund; the funding allocated for the scheme in 2019; the value of the total amount of payments made for approved projects to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43881/19]

The rural regeneration and development fund is another of the Minister's big ticket items that is struggling to spend its funding. Only €14 million of the €52 million fund for this year has been drawn down. This points to a difficulty whereby the Minister has the money but the partners do not appear to have it or seem to be very slow in spending it. It is a constant theme and the impact of these programmes on the ground is being diminished. I wish to pursue this in respect of the rural and regeneration fund in particular.

The rural regeneration and development fund seeks to support ambitious and strategic projects which have the potential to transform rural economies and communities. The Government has committed €1 billion over ten years to the fund and €315 million is allocated to the fund for the period from 2019 to 2022. A total of €52 million was allocated to the fund for 2019.

The first call for applications to the fund closed in September 2018. There was a large response to the first call, with 280 applications received under categories 1 and 2. Category 1 related to projects with all necessary planning and other consents in place and which were ready to proceed, while category 2 projects were those which required further development to become ready for category 1 status.

On foot of the first call, 38 successful category 1 projects and 46 category 2 projects were announced, with funding of €86 million provided from the fund to support projects worth €117 million.

Following the announcement of the successful projects, my Department engaged with each lead party to complete due diligence requirements. Contractual arrangements were also drawn up with the release of funding based on the achievement of key milestones in the projects. In this regard, significant progress is already being made on the implementation of successful projects. A number of the projects have reached their first milestone and had funding released.

To date, €16 million has been drawn down from the fund by 29 separate projects. This is made up of €13.31 million drawn down for 15 category 1 projects and €2.69 million for 14 category 2 projects. I expect that payments from the fund will continue to accelerate over the coming weeks and months as further milestones are achieved across the other projects. The second call for category 1 applications for the rural regeneration and development fund closed on 6 August.

Some €52 million is allocated for 2019 and €16 million of that has been drawn down to date. Is the Minister confident that the full €52 million will be drawn down? With regard to the most recent call for applications, which closed in August, when will the Minister announce the successful applicants? One assumes that if the category 1 projects were ready to roll that they are now rolling. Category 2 projects are in pre-clearance, as it were. As regards the €14 million that has been drawn down, does the Minister anticipate that this figure will increase substantially? Finally, what is the co-funding element in place for all these projects or does it differ around the country depending on who the partners are?

We had to carry out due diligence in respect of the category 1 schemes. We had to make sure that the contracts were ready and confirm the funding that they said would be in place. I am pleased that many projects are up and running. In fact, I am due to be in Galway tomorrow to open projects that have been funded under the rural regeneration scheme. The Deputy asked about the spend.

We certainly will not spend all of the money between now and the end of the year, and I am not going to say that we will, but we are hoping to re-profile it elsewhere. As the Deputy knows, the LEADER programme has ramped up. I will transfer some of the excess funding from the rural regeneration scheme into LEADER, even though the Deputy and his colleagues have been telling me for the past two years-----

-----that LEADER would not ramp up, and that we would not be able to spend the LEADER money. The Deputy told me last year that I would not spend my budget. Some 100% of the capital budget and 99.9% of the current budget has been spent. I wanted to take the opportunity to say that because I was sick and tired of hearing this from every Fianna Fáil Deputy over the summer. I know they had nothing else to do but to look at my figures, but I assure the Deputy that I spent the money. With regard to the second round, I am hoping to announce further schemes under the rural regeneration scheme in the next two to three weeks.

I thank the Minister, but I might add that it was not every Deputy.

We were right; the Minister has just admitted he is not going to spend all of the money under the rural regeneration and development fund in 2019.

I was on about LEADER. I did spend it.

He is going to move money from this fund into the LEADER programme. We will have a discussion about the programme later. The Minister has allocated €350 million for the period from 2019 to 2021 under the rural regeneration and development fund. He is not going to reach that target in the first year, so is that figure of €350 million going to change? It is unbelievable that the Minister will not spend all his money when 70% of applications under the November 2018 call were not green-lighted for progress. Only 84 of 280 applications progressed. I am sure that many applicants whose projects did not get through assessment would love to have the kind of money the Minister is going to send back. How much money does the Minister anticipate re-profiling, to use his own word, from rural regeneration into some other pot to open everything up over the next few weeks?

I am very confident that all of our programmes are on profile. The Deputy will know that projects in his own county have started and I am told they will be completed by the end of December. I expect they will draw down the funding. That is happening all over the country.

I do not yet know the amount I will not spend. Earlier in the year, I had thought that I might have money to reallocate from LEADER. That is not going to happen. In fact, I am going to have to look to other areas to fund LEADER. In all fairness, Deputy Calleary was not too bad but there was another man in Galway who was on the radio or in the newspaper every week suggesting that I was not going to spend, no matter how often I sent him information showing that last year I spent my full allocation and almost 99.9% of my current expenditure budget. I will do the same this year. All of my programmes are on profile. The Deputy knows about this rural regeneration scheme. He knows that we have to carry out due diligence, which is important. These are large schemes into which a lot of State money is going. I have to make sure that everything is above board. We set milestones with regard to contracts and procurement. Everything has to be in order.

I compliment my staff. They have worked very hard with all of these communities, State agencies, and councils. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to get some of these schemes up and running. I could make further comments today but I will not. I thank my staff for their patience, their work, and the effort they put into getting these schemes across the line. If this was a private company, I know what these projects would be told to do. They would not draw down funding from that private company; they would be told "Bye, bye". To be fair to my officials, they have worked very hard. They were very good. This is a great scheme. The Deputy knows it is a good scheme. Fantastic projects will be undertaken. As I have said, I will be in Galway to open one of these projects tomorrow. It is just fantastic.

Before we move on to Question No. 2, I ask Deputies and Ministers to be conscious of time so that we can get as many of the listed Deputies as possible in for their questions.

Brexit Preparations

Brian Stanley


2. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the preparations or contingency planning being carried out to address a no-deal Brexit for rural communities, especially in the Border region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43656/19]

This is my first question to the Minister since taking up this brief. I welcome the opportunity. I ask the Minister about the preparations or contingency planning being carried out to address a no-deal Brexit. As he will be aware, this will have a direct impact on rural communities. There will be some sort of Brexit. That is a fairly safe bet unless there is a second referendum in Britain but, unfortunately, the opportunity for such a referendum seems to be fading. The Border region will be especially impacted but it will affect all regions. The midlands, including the constituency of Laois-Offaly that I represent, will also be impacted. Rural areas will be particularly hit.

I am taking this question on behalf of the Minister. Preparations for all Brexit scenarios are being co-ordinated across government by the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach. The Government’s detailed and comprehensive work across all sectors on no-deal planning is guided by the priorities and actions set out in the Government's contingency action plan update.  This update, published on 9 July, builds on the approach of the contingency action plan first published in December 2018 and reflects extensive work on a whole-of-Government basis and at EU level on no-deal contingency planning.   

The Government is very aware of the particular needs of the Border region in the context of Brexit, particularly in the event of a no-deal outcome. Mitigating the impact of Brexit and the importance of avoiding a hard border for people living in all the Border counties is a key Government priority.  Measures provided for in budget 2020 will make more than €1 billion of supports available in the event of a no-deal scenario. This funding will be available to address challenges including in the most affected parts of the country, for example, the Border region, should that prove necessary.  My Department and its agencies have fed into the contingency planning process at all stages, where appropriate, and will continue to engage across government and with our stakeholders in the rural and community development sectors.  

Anticipating and preparing for these possible impacts is a priority and the funding provided by my Department to build resilient communities across the country will become even more important in the event of a no-deal Brexit. My Department's focus continues to be on maintaining maximum flexibility in our programme of funding initiatives to enable us to continue to support all communities and to target available funding to those economic sectors and geographic areas most in need.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. The concern is mainly about a crash-out Brexit but even if there is not a crash-out Brexit and the withdrawal deal is accepted, there will be issues. The deal is probably the best that can be done. We accept that. We backed the omnibus legislation and worked with the Government and other parties in the House to get it through. Even if the withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU is accepted, there may be interruptions to east-west trade depending on how future trade negotiations work out. Will the Minister of State outline the research his Department has carried out on the potential impact on rural Ireland? What role does he see his Department playing in helping rural communities to deal with the negative effects of Brexit? What role can the rural regeneration and development fund that was addressed earlier play? As the Minister said, it is an important fund. What role can it play in protecting jobs in the Border region and in the other regions that will be affected? Is there scope for supports for vulnerable businesses from the Department?

I reiterate that the Government will make more than €1 billion available in budget 2020 to be spent in the event of a no-deal Brexit. That funding will be used to protect Ireland from the worst effects of a no-deal Brexit and to help the businesses and people most affected, if and when they need it. This is on top of the grants and loans that are available for business and agriculture and ongoing Government expenditure on Brexit. To bring it back to our Department, we have been liaising with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach to ensure issues relating to rural communities are taken into account in Brexit preparations. Funding under the rural regeneration and development fund, the town and village renewal scheme, the outdoor recreation scheme, the enhancement schemes, and all of the other schemes is available for all communities that need it. There is a particular focus on supporting communities in rural areas under various Brexit scenarios. Departmental funding and supports have the flexibility to allow for responses to emerging needs. Flexibility is crucially important as long as Brexit uncertainty remains. Funding to build resilience in communities to deal with any impacts of Brexit is a major priority for the Department.

The Minister of State referenced the rural regeneration and development fund. With regard to areas in which there may be job losses, can that fund be used to offset those losses to ensure that they do not occur or to avoid them?

We must try to limit the damage because Brexit is going to cause headaches for everybody. It is about limiting that damage. Recent independent reports from the Institute of International and European Affairs and the Department confirm that Brexit presents a doomsday scenario for Irish agriculture and the related food sector. It is having a huge impact on rural Ireland.

Industries are going to be under pressure, which the Minister and the Minister of State will accept, but new industries are emerging and one of the saviours for rural Ireland, including the counties the Minister, the Minister of State and I come from, will be renewable energy. Can a stream of funding from the Department be used for that to try to kick-start those new industries? There is a limited pot in the climate change fund but the Minister has a substantial pocket of money there. Is it open to us to use some of that funding to generate those new industries, particularly in areas with poor land that have been badly hit?

I repeat that the funding opportunities from the Department are there for all communities. They are flexible and are there to deal with whatever scenarios come up. If people have a particular project, they can always make an application and we will see if it can be accommodated in the funding streams available.

We have to realise that Brexit will affect different people in different places, but as the Deputy has said, rural Ireland is probably the most exposed. This is why our Department has liaised so tightly with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Taoiseach. The €1 billion fund is there to help us in a no-deal Brexit. I must also be clear that the funding is for all of the communities in Ireland. If communities feel that they must get some additional support, the schemes are flexible and are there to ensure we have support where it is most needed in the communities across rural Ireland, be it due to Brexit or other issues.

RAPID Programme

John Curran


3. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the analysis carried out to ensure that those communities most disadvantaged as previously identified in RAPID areas are receiving adequate support and funding under the community enhancement programme since the closure of the RAPID programme and the establishment of the community enhancement programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43882/19]

Is Deputy Calleary introducing Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Curran?


The RAPID programme devised by Deputy Ó Cuív during his time in the Department was a very focused plan, especially with regard to urban disadvantage. There were 51 areas in it and it was beginning to achieve some success until funding was cut. The Minister, Deputy Ring, has now reviewed it and has come up with a new programme that takes in RAPID and extends it out. What is the current position? Has the Minister done analysis to show the impact of the dilution of the original RAPID scheme on those initial communities and on other communities?

Under the original RAPID programme, funding was ring-fenced for areas designated as RAPID. The key difference with the new community enhancement programme is that funding is allocated to every local authority area, on the basis of the deprivation level in each area. This is done using the Pobal Haase Pratschke, HP, deprivation index, which measures the wealth or disadvantage of a particular area using data compiled from the census.

Once funding is provided to each local authority area, the local community development committee, LCDC, then administers the programme. LCDCs monitor the programmes and ensure that the funding is benefiting communities, urban and rural, across the country in the fairest way possible. This approach ensures that local knowledge and more up-to-date information is used to allocate funding, rather than only providing funding to areas designated as RAPID a number of years ago.

The community enhancement programme is not the only way in which my Department provides support to disadvantaged areas. For example, the social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, running from 2018 to 2022 is our country’s primary social inclusion intervention. This is a €190 million national programme delivered locally to help those in the greatest need.

The original remit of RAPID was to address the way we do silo government in this country. I do not mean politically, it was to do with Departments doing their own thing. RAPID was supposed to bring everybody together, and specifically in the most disadvantaged areas, to agree on programmes and invest accordingly in a very targeted way. This new way loses that targeting and the focus. I am aware that the LCDCs are in charge of the programme on the ground but is the Minister monitoring it nationally? Is there a system so we can measure on a consistent basis the impact across the country? Are there measurable targets to be met where we could see if an LCDC or a local programme is not delivering or where improvements or enhancements could be made?

The Minister made a commitment to my colleague Deputy Curran earlier this year that he would look at the community enhancement programme for re-profiling, to use the Minister's own phrase, in terms of money not being spent elsewhere in the Minister's Department during the final quarter of this year. Will the Minister indicate if he will be investing any more money in this programme before the end of the year?

On the RAPID programme, to be fair it was closed in 2003 and reopened again in 2011. A value-for-money report was done on that programme, which stated that if we were ever to do another RAPID programme again it must be done a different way. There was a community facilities programme and a RAPID programme so I amalgamated both of them and brought it into the community enhancement programme. I then brought it down to the local level with the LCDCs because I felt that these are the people on the ground. The Deputy is aware of how these LCDCs are set up. They are made up of the local communities, including the elected representatives and different sections of society. By bringing it down to the grassroots I felt that they would have a better understanding and would be able to target areas in most need of the funding.

Deputy Calleary is quite correct that in my budget baseline last year, I had €4.5 million, which is the same for this year. I had savings last year and put a further €8 million into the scheme. This year I put €4.5 million plus €500,000 for the men's and women's sheds. If I am to re-profile money again it is something I would look at.

The Deputy asked a serious and good question about monitoring the programme. I have to monitor and am doing a review to ensure that this does not become a fund that is not targeted to the people that need it most, particularly in disadvantaged communities. We are monitoring the programme and reviewing it. We are looking at it and if I feel there is a need to make changes in the programme, I will.

What measurement is in place in the Department to ensure the consistency of the LCDCs across the country?

Can we look at a comparison between the 51 areas that were in the original RAPID programme and which were getting places, to see how they are faring under the new model of the community enhancement programme? Has there been a loss of investment or a loss of improvement in those areas as a consequence of the new programme?

The Deputy is on the same hymn sheet as I am. I want to make sure this funding is targeted to the areas where it is needed most.

The Deputy asked about consistency. This is the reason I asked for the review. I went through a number of counties looking at the way they were allocating the funding. Some counties seemed to have a different way than did other counties. I needed to get some consistency in the ways they allocated funding. I do not want it to become a fund for anybody; I just want it to be targeted to the areas that need it most. The Deputy is aware that in disadvantaged areas in particular, they have used the funding for CCTV and to buy equipment. In some areas it has been used very well but I saw some grants that I was not happy with and this is why I asked for the review. There are other schemes where they could make applications for those other grants. I want this programme to target disadvantaged communities be it for CCTV, to buy a lawnmower, for repairs to a community hall or to buy a small bit of machinery. This is what I want done. We are reviewing it and I am watching it. If it is not working, then I would have no difficulty in having another look at ways and means of doing a different scheme. I wanted to bring it down to the communities because I wanted to give the LCDCs the opportunity. They are on the ground and I know they will make the best decisions for the communities they represent.

Fire Safety

Ruth Coppinger


4. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he will establish a national fund to assist community centres in need of fire safety works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43806/19]

The Minister will be aware that fire and safety audits are being done by many community centres and it results in them needing to significantly enhance their buildings and raise funds for that work. We all agree with increased fire safety regulations but there has to be a way for public buildings and community centres to get this work done. Hartstown and Huntstown are two community centres in close proximity in my constituency and the Taoiseach's constituency. They have been told they need to raise €120,000 each. I have raised this matter previously with the Minister and with the Taoiseach. It is not tenable for one local community to raise nearly €250,000 for fire safety.

Will the Minister set up a national fund for such work?

Community centres are cornerstones of community life in many towns, villages and urban areas. They bring people together in safe spaces for social, educational and other purposes. I acknowledge that it is very important that community facilities be safe for the groups and individuals that use them. Where upgrades to community centres are needed, whether for fire safety or other reasons, a range of funding sources across Departments and agencies can be availed of. On the funding provided by my Department, rural community centres can benefit from the town and village renewal scheme and LEADER programme funding. The community enhancement programme can also contribute small capital grants for facilities in both rural and urban areas. Given the constraints on my Department's Vote, it is not possible to open a new line of national funding for community centres in need of fire safety works. However, I am examining the possibility of setting aside a modest fund to assist in a limited number of particularly critical cases. I stress that where a community centre is in the ownership of a local authority, it is that authority's responsibility to identify and resolve any issue. Where ownership rests with other parties, I urge the communities involved to contact their local authority when issues are identified to explore and discuss the options available.

When I raised this idea with the Taoiseach earlier in the month, he said it was a good idea and indicated that he would look into it. However, in a letter he sent subsequently the fund was no longer mentioned. Instead, he pointed towards six funds. Is the Government seriously suggesting people go out fundraising and then claim from six funds, with all of the administration that involves? There will be a public meeting in Huntstown community centre tonight and there was a very large attendance at a meeting in Hartstown with the new board of management last night. All people want to know is whether the Government will support the vital work community centres do or is it merely paying lip service. It is not clear that money will be provided. The problem is that claims have been made to some of these funds already and that people do not have the time, energy and space to go looking in six locations.

I want the Deputy to be clear that I do not have a baseline in my budget for community halls all over the country. The Deputy, among others, the Taoiseach and a number of people came to see me. They had a problem in Hartstown and now there is a problem in Huntstown. I have put aside a small sum in my Department to assist these communities. In Hartstown we are waiting for the local authority to come back to tell us how much is actually required. The local authority is also committed to providing funding for the project. I do not have a baseline in my budget, but in other parts of the country people can obtain funding from the LEADER programme for community halls. The community enhancement programme is also available, whereby local authorities can provide assistance for community halls. This is a major issue that is developing. As such, I will put aside €250,000 from Dormant Accounts Fund money next year and will see what I can do to help. However, this issue cannot be left to one Department. Local authorities have to play their part, as do other Departments and people in leadership positions. We are committed to helping communities, which is why we have SICAP, the CSP and other programmes to assist them.

It is bizarre that fire safety regulations were increased, yet there is no mechanism to help organisations to meet them. Unfortunately, local authorities do not run all community centres. That is the problem. The greyhound industry which many believe is cruel received €17 million from the Government in the recent budget, while community centres have been left to bag-pack, organise pub quizzes, race nights and so on to raise funds to pay for fire safety measures such as fire doors. Is this for real? What are the priorities? As it is, community centres plug gaps where the Government has failed, in particular in dealing with the housing crisis in Dublin West. They provide breakfast clubs for kids, washing facilities for homeless families, hot meals and so on and are doing so from their own budgets. People do not care from where the money comes. They just want it to be made clear that the centres will be supported in what they do. While some people are employed, in involves a great deal of voluntary effort. I ask the Minister to sit down with the people involved to ensure they can draw down funds just as he would sit down if there was a crisis in a rural area, or wherever else, with which I fully agree.

The Deputy should remember that this is the Department of Rural and Community Development and that it deals with urban, as well as rural areas.

I have been in and out of many areas in urban as well as rural locations. This is a new problem that has developed. While the Deputy says it is a Government problem, the Government does not own some of the community halls. They may be owned by the church, local authorities or communities. A lot of the schemes and community organisations operating in them are being funded by the Government, rightly so. If we did not have those involved providing services, they would not exist. I appreciate that, but we have a problem and I am trying to help in dealing with it in some way. However, I will need cross-Government support. I have a small Department and the funding about which the Deputy is talking is not within my budget. I am making some funding available to deal with one or two of the problems highlighted by the Deputy and know that the same problems in other areas will be raised. It is something at which I have to look with the Government. I cannot give a commitment in circumstances in which funding is not available in my budget line for next year. Nevertheless, I am making some funding available to deal with the problems we have. Ultimately, there will have to be a cross-Government decision.

Community Development Initiatives

Maureen O'Sullivan


5. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the way in which he plans to progress the report, Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, to ensure real community development. [43818/19]

How does the Minister intend to progress the report, Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities, to ensure there will be real community development?

In August 2019 I launched Sustainable, Inclusive and Empowered Communities: a five-year strategy to support the community and voluntary sector in Ireland. The strategy was co-produced by the Government and the community and voluntary sector through a cross-sectoral group established for that purpose. The strategy sets out 11 high level objectives and associated actions which will empower communities, their representative organisations and the community and voluntary sector to inform and shape responses to their needs. The implementation of the actions will be subject to an annual work planning process as indicated in the strategy. The cross-sectoral group will advise on and support the process and my Department is reviewing its membership to ensure appropriate stakeholder participation during strategy implementation. I envisage the first meeting of the new group taking place in early December.

I will provide funding in 2020 to begin the work of implementation of the report. It will include enhanced supports for the structures which enable community engagement in local decision-making, namely, public participation networks and local community development committees. This is an ambitious strategy which will support partnership and joint effort at all levels and between all stakeholders. While I acknowledge that the delivery of some of the actions will take time, I am fully committed to achieving the objectives of the strategy.

We heard a presentation on community development in the AV room recently by Dr. Patricia Kelleher. She went back over the history of community development, looking at the early stages of the Land League, the Gaelic League and the co-operative movement and the forms of rural and urban community development in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. What we saw then was real community development. Projects were innovative, enterprising and effective because they were from the bottom up. Between 2008 and 2011, we saw funding cuts of between 35% and 40%. By 2009, over 180 community development projects had been dissolved, prompting the title of Dr. Kelleher's report, The Systematic Destruction of the Community Development, Anti-Poverty and Equality Movement (2002-2015). It appears that the new strategy for community development is top-down, consisting of development initiatives taken by statutory agencies and local authorities, sometimes in partnership with local people, but that is not real community development, as the Minister and I know it from the past. My question, therefore, is whether the Minister is confident that his report will bring back the kind of community development that led to real changes in the past.

I do not agree with the Deputy that it is a top-down approach. It is from the bottom up.

I am someone who very much believes in that.

On social enterprise and specifically this strategy, many people have talked about this for 20 years; I am the only Minister who has actually brought it in. Moreover, I put my money where my mouth is. I have allocated some funding this year for the public participation networks, PPNs, and the local community development committees, LCDCs. These people felt most strongly that they were not getting the supports to enable them to be in community organisations, in relation to their role and what they wanted to do. That is why the funding is in place.

Some 14,600 are in the community and PPNs. Many people are involved in the community sector. I am committed to protecting the community sector. As I told the previous Deputy, if we do not have the community sector, we will not have services in urban or rural Ireland because neither the health boards, the councils nor the State will provide. It would not happen for these communities. They will get my support - they have my support - and next year I have put €1.2 million towards the implementation of the strategy, for the PPNs and LCDCs.

Dr. Kelleher made the point that during the 1970s to the 1990s, there were really progressive civil servants who understood what community development was about. Dr. Pauline Conroy gave a critique of the five year strategy. She noted that there were 47 mentions of the word inclusion in the 52 page report. Her main point was that there has been an erosion of trust between the local authorities, the statutory agencies and the people who are working on the ground. It will be very difficult to get back to the 180 community projects which were dissolved. I attended the launch of another report yesterday by All Together in Dignity, ATD, on understanding the hidden dimensions of poverty. What we see there is the loss of those community projects because no one was focusing on the whole idea of poverty. There was also the lack of trust which has arisen over the years since the dissolution of those 180 projects. We need to return to that sense of trust. We are talking about local-based participatory democracy, where people in communities have their say and make decisions. I see statutory agencies and local government coming in and telling communities what is best for them rather than it being the other way around. I hope that the Minister's strategy leads to that but a close eye must be kept on it.

The Deputy's question is fair. The 1960s to the 1980s were different times. Communities now have many difficulties, including health and safety and claims. There are many things which arise. When someone is in charge of or part of a voluntary group or board, he or she has a big responsibility. That is not right, really. There are pressures which come from outside. People in these organisations must be so careful that they are protected, trained and that they know their responsibilities because they could finish up in the High Court or any court because of how society has gone.

I expect the Deputy thinks in a similar way to myself on this so I wish to be clear: I want it from the bottom up. My officials, in fairness to them, have gone out and met community groups on this strategy. They have brought people together, talking and listening to them. We are establishing this group which will be set up by 1 December and its first implementation meeting will be in December. I will ensure that all sections of society will be on the group so that they can speak to the officials who ultimately have the responsibility for budgets. I assure the Deputy that I want this to work from the bottom up, not the top down because the bottom up knows what is going on where the top down sometimes does not.