In 2018 I launched the new community enhancement programme under which grants are provided for community groups to help them to improve facilities in their area. The programme is aimed at improving community facilities to address disadvantage. In 2018 I allocated a total of €13 million for the programme, which included €500,000 that was ring-fenced for a men’s sheds fund. The issue of whether I will be in a position to allocate funding in 2019 to Tidy Towns committees will be considered by me at a later date. However, Tidy Towns committees are free to apply, with any other community group, for funding under the general programme. Under the 2018 programme, 158 applications from Tidy Towns groups were approved for funding under the community enhancement programme to a total amount of €536,816. They also received funding in 2018 and previous years under other grant schemes operated by my Department. Under these other schemes, funding of €2.8 million was allocated for provision for Tidy Towns committees between 2017 and 2018.
I take the opportunity to acknowledge the great work carried out by Tidy Towns groups across the country. They are all independent voluntary groups and can apply for funding under this scheme. I will look again this year to see what I can do for Tidy Towns groups which do a tremendous job in many areas. They are cleaning up rubbish dumped by people on a regular basis. They have to be complimented on doing so. The time has come to start looking at ways and means to give them some support and recognise the great work they do as volunteers.