Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Questions (38)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

38. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 10 of 8 November 2018, when the review of local community development committees due in quarter 2 of 2018 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22877/19]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Rural)

Tá ceist dhíreach simplí agam agus bheinn buíoch as freagra díreach gonta. When will the review of local community development committees, LCDCs, which was due in early 2019, be published? Has it been completed?

After the last questions relating to social enterprise, I sent a copy to the Deputy.

Táim buíoch don Aire as sin.

With reference to the Deputy's previous parliamentary question of 8 November 2018, a report on the LCDC review is being drafted by my Department with guidance and input from the LCDC review steering group and it is at an advanced stage.  The aim of the report is to provide a set of practical recommendations that address the challenges identified in the consultation and strengthen the operation of the LCDCs going forward.

The Local Government Reform Act 2014 significantly increased the community function in local authorities providing for the establishment of LCDCs and Our Public Service 2020 recognises the LCDCs as the primary vehicle for collaboration at a local level. In this context, my Department is currently involved in comprehensive consultation with the City and County Management Association and other stakeholders to ensure that the LCDC review is as robust as possible.  While this engagement has been very worthwhile, it has taken longer than anticipated.  I expect to have a draft for my consideration very shortly and would hope to publish the final report in July 2019.

I have been given a date of July this year and I thank the Minister for that. However, it is very disappointing that it has taken this long. The review was set up way back in 2017, when the LCDCs had been in operation for three years. Various replies, from before the current Minister's time, told us it would be 2018 and early 2019 but now it is to be July 2019. Is the Minister certain it will be published in July? This document is vital because we have to look at whether the LCDCs are operating properly in terms of governance. We also have to look at them in the context of sustainable development goals and climate change, which have taken on a new urgency.

My officials and I are having robust negotiations with local authorities, which will deliver the scheme. I want to get it right and, as with the social report we did recently, I want to ensure we learn from the past number of years. I am very confident that I will get the report but I do not want to talk about what will be in it or out of it. I want it to be robust and I want everybody to have an opportunity to express their views. I hope we come back with a very strong report.

The LCDCs are working very well around the country but we need to look at them and see if changes are needed to strengthen them.

It is a bit surreal for the Minister to talk about a robust report. The review was to see if the LCDCs were robust in how they operate on the ground but we are now looking at the review to see if it is robust, almost two years after it was due to report. The Minister will see why I am sceptical about this matter. We all feel that the LCDCs are doing very good work but the review was to see how effective they were and if they were able to change with the changing circumstances, in particular in the areas of climate change and the sustainable development goals. It is very disappointing that it will take until July. Can the Minister assure me that it will be published in July? Who is actually sitting on it? How many representatives of the community are involved? I worked in LCDCs for 17 years and I have a certain scepticism about management pushing things. The work I have seen on the ground came from the community and that was the best work I have ever seen.

A steering group in my Department is dealing with this. I guarantee that, when I go back today, I will ensure this group gets the report to me immediately. As soon as I get the report, I want to publish it. I guarantee that it will be published. The Deputy is right that this has gone on too long so I will start to put the pressure on now to make sure it is published. I want to make sure the steering group gets it right. This is a new Department. We have done a lot of reviews of schemes in the past 18 months and that all takes time. The Department is working very hard and I compliment my officials. The steering group is independent of me but I want it to produce a robust report. I give the Deputy a guarantee that I will have it ready for July.