Thursday, 30 May 2013

Questions (302)

Michael Healy-Rae


302. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the rural transport scheme. [26466/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Local Development Companies (LDCs) are known by a number of different names nationwide, including Local Area Partnerships, LEADER Partnerships, Integrated Development Companies as well as Local Development Companies. The Programme is administered by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The future of the LDCs is a matter for that Department.    

An overall budget of €9.133 million has been allocated by the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) for 2013, representing a small decrease on the 2012 allocation of €9.77 million, at a difficult time financially. My aim is to strengthen the RTP by ensuring a more efficient delivery structure by maximising integration with other state transport services and by making the programme a sustainable part of the public transport system. This is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to maintain and extend the RTP with other local transport services.  To this end national responsibility for local and rural transport services integration, including the RTP, was assigned to the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 1 April 2012, putting such services in a broader transport context.

I am well aware of the very valuable work done by RTP Groups in identifying and delivering the transport needs of their local community.  However, given that resources are limited and that the Value for Money and Policy Review of the RTP, published last year recommended organisational restructuring to achieve efficiencies and the better alignment of the 35 RTP groups with local authorities, it is necessary that the current delivery mechanisms and structures are examined and revised.  Current structures are not sustainable if the required efficiencies and savings are to be achieved. If these are not achieved then with the limited resources available services will decline. Work has been underway over the last six months to determine the optimal structure for the delivery of rural transport from an efficiency and service perspective. This has involved consultations with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the County and City Managers Association and the Rural Transport Network.

I have not as yet taken any decisions on restructuring. I am awaiting proposals from the NTA when they have concluded their deliberations and discussions but I am hopeful to be in a position to recommend a new structure in the near future which will allow for the maximising of spend on services and the reduction of administration costs. I will ensure that any future structure for the RTP will be based on community input, local flexibility and involving the voluntary sector.  Rural Transport by its nature is community-based and this will remain under any new structure.