LEADER Programmes Administration

Questions (51)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

51. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the response he received from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to his recent letter on treating community groups applying for LEADER funding with greater flexibility in the procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22874/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Earlier this year, I received an invitation from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to input into the Office of Government Procurement’s (OGP’s) review of the Public Procurement Programme.

My Department wrote to the OGP in response to this request to suggest that consideration should be given to adopting a more simplified process under procurement rules for community-based groups applying for programmes such as LEADER.  Such groups often procure goods and services of relatively low value, yet they are required to follow the full rigours of the national procurement guidelines.  These community-based groups do not have public procurement expertise and the procurement requirements can deter good projects or lead to additional costs for the groups.

My Department received a response from the OGP in recent days. My officials are currently considering this response and will continue to engage with the OGP and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the matter as appropriate.

Charitable and Voluntary Organisations

Questions (52, 57)

Mick Wallace

Question:

52. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he or his officials have been briefed by the board of Pobal in relation to its review of its charitable status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22886/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

57. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development if he has considered the independent review of the charitable status of Pobal; when the review will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22878/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52 and 57 together.

Pobal is a not for profit company which was originally established by Government in 1992 as Area Development Management (ADM) Ltd.  Charitable status was granted to the company by the Revenue Commissioners on the 20th November 1996.  In 2005 ADM was re-named Pobal.  In accordance with Section 40 of the Charities Act, 2009, Pobal was entered onto the Register of Charitable Organisations on 16 October 2014.  

The basis for Pobal having charitable status is tied to the objects of the Company, which are specified in its Memorandum and Articles of Association.  I am satisfied that Pobal is fully compliant with the relevant legislative requirements including those of the Charities Act, 2009.  

Pobal has undertaken a review of its charitable status and in that regard sought independent legal advice on the matter.  The review has now concluded.  The Board of Pobal met on Friday, May 24th, 2019 to finalise their discussions relating to the review of charitable status.  I understand that it was decided by the Board that it was appropriate for the company to retain charitable status.  An update will be provided at the next scheduled liaison meeting with my Department in early June.

National Volunteering Strategy

Questions (53)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

53. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his proposals for the development of a national volunteering strategy and for the drawing up of a national social enterprise policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22868/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The development of a National Volunteering Strategy and a National Social Enterprise Policy are key priorities for my Department this year.

In relation to the Volunteering Strategy, my Department has collated the information received from a Call for Input (CFI) exercise last December that was designed as a first step towards developing a draft National Volunteering Strategy. This material is being presented to a National Advisory Group on Volunteering at its inaugural meeting today, 29th May 2019. The group is made up of a range of stakeholders representing Government and the community and voluntary sector. 

It is anticipated that the draft strategy will be completed later this year, following which there will be a further opportunity for the public to provide input before the strategy is presented to Government for approval.

My Department published a draft National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland in April for public consultation.  The consultation closed on 14th May and over 100 submissions were received.  My officials are now reviewing these submissions which will help to inform the final draft of the policy.  The policy will be brought to Government for approval in the near future, prior to its launch and publication.

The Social Enterprise Policy will complement the National Volunteering Strategy and a new 10-Year Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sectors in Ireland, which is also being developed by my Department.  Taken together, this suite of initiatives will support the full range of organisations that are providing services to communities or tackling social issues, whether through a social enterprise model or through more traditional community services delivery.

Local Improvement Scheme Funding

Questions (54)

James Browne

Question:

54. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his plans to provide additional funding for the local improvement scheme in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22730/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities.

On 7th February last I launched the 2019 LIS and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. The number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 is a matter for the relevant Local Authority. Funding Allocations on a county by county basis can be found on the Gov.ie website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/d309ea-local-improvement-scheme/.  Co. Wexford received an allocation of €329,878 under the 2019 LIS.

It is clear that there is a continuing demand for LIS funding in rural communities across Ireland. The level of funding available for the scheme is determined as part of the annual Estimates process.

Rural Broadband Scheme

Questions (55)

Pat Deering

Question:

55. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the implications for rural Ireland of the roll-out of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22720/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

As the Deputy will be aware, on 7th May and following a detailed tendering process, the Government announced its intention to award the contract to a preferred bidder for the roll out of high speed broadband in areas not covered on a commercial basis. 

 Broadband connectivity is vital to supporting all of our future living standards and this project will have a transformative effect on rural Ireland, encompassing 540,000 premises and 1.1 million people.

Every policy area that supports our society and our economy will require effective broadband connectivity in the future – this includes areas such as education, health, transport, farming, and employment.

The NBP will facilitate a structural shift in how people live and work in rural Ireland.  The availability of high-speed broadband will enable their full participation in the digital economy and in society more generally.

For example, the rapid deployment of high speed broadband is critically important for farm and food businesses in rural areas.  On-line application for the Basic Payment Scheme is mandatory under EU law since 2018.

Businesses will be able to expand their markets by trading online, and a range of citizen-focused initiatives can be rolled-out equally across the country, improving health, safety and security, and services for isolated, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Improved broadband connectivity will also help to support further job creation through remote working in regional locations. It will enable employers to access a wider group of skilled on-line workers who might not otherwise be available to them.

It will also help to revitalise and re-establish rural Ireland as an attractive place to live and work.

The Government has a responsibility to increase the economic prospects for those living in rural areas.  The National Broadband Plan will contribute significantly to this objective by closing the gap between the level of broadband service available in urban centres and rural areas.

Local Improvement Scheme

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 52.

Questions (56)

Joe Carey

Question:

56. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the 2019 local improvement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22724/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities. 

There was no dedicated funding available for this scheme for a number of years due to constraints on public expenditure.  However, I was very conscious of the underlying demand for the scheme in rural areas throughout the country and I re-launched the scheme in 2017.

Since the reintroduction of the scheme I have allocated over €48 million to it, which has led to the completion of over 1,400 roads.

I launched the 2019 LIS on 7th February last and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. Decisions on the number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 is a matter for the relevant Local Authority.  Funding allocations on a county by county basis can be found on the Gov.ie website at the following link https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/d309ea-local-improvement-scheme/.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 52.

Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

Questions (58, 61, 59)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

58. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the spend to date in 2019 under the rural regeneration fund; the expenditure expected by year end; the value of the grant approvals to date under the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22845/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

61. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the position regarding the first allocation under the rural regeneration and development fund; the project review mechanisms in place; when the second call for funding under the fund will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22881/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 61 together.

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 10 years to the Fund and €315 million is allocated to the Fund for the period 2019-2022.  My Department has allocated €52 million from the Fund to support the RRDF projects in 2019.

The first call for applications for the Fund closed at the end of September.  There were 280 applications submitted to the first call.  126 applications related to Category 1, "shovel ready" projects.  154 related to Category 2 projects, those which needed development funding to become potential Category 1 applications in future calls for applications.

In November 2018, I announced the first set of 18 successful Category 1 projects.  These 18 projects will receive €24.4m in funding and have an overall value of €34.6m.  In February 2019, I announced another 20 successful Category 1 projects and 46 Category 2 projects.  These 66 projects will receive €62m in funding and have a total project value of €83m.  Overall, the first call from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide €86m in support for projects worth €117m.  

To ensure the prompt delivery of projects, my Department has drawn up contractual obligations for successful applicants with funding based on the achievement of key milestones in the projects.  In that regard, while there has been no drawdown from the Fund to date though I am pleased that a number of the projects are approaching the completion of their first key milestone.  

I launched the second call for applications to the Fund in April 2019.  This current call is open to Category 1, shovel-ready, applications only and the closing date is 12 noon on Tuesday, 6th August 2019.  A further call for Category 2 applications will follow in October. Information on the requirements of the second call are on the gov.ie website and information sessions to assist potential applicants will be held by my Department.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

59. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount approved for projects to date under the current LEADER programme by local action group, LAG; the total paid out to date by LAG; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22846/19]

View answer

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a total budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020.  €220 million of this funding has been allocated to the Local Action Groups (LAGs) throughout the country who deliver the LEADER programme. This funding is allocated to the LAGs for the full period of the programme. 

The remaining €30 million is available for thematic schemes to be delivered at a national level and is allocated as projects are approved.

Total expenditure on the LEADER programme since it commenced, effectively in 2016, is in excess of €50 million.  This includes expenditure on projects and the operating costs of the Local Action Groups.

The level of project activity under the LEADER programme has increased significantly over the last year, and 1,991 projects have now been approved for funding of almost €69 million.  A further 373 project applications, requesting in excess of €26 million, are at various stages in the approval process.

Table 1 provides a breakdown of the projects approved by each Local Action Group together with details of the project payments made to date. The figures do not include expenditure or approvals under national-level thematic schemes, such as the LEADER Food Initiative and Co-operation Projects, as they are not funded from the LAGs' existing allocations. 

 Table 1: Total LEADER Project approvals and payments by LAG as at 26th May 2019

Local Action Group

Project  Allocation

Projects Approved

Projects  Approved

Project Payments made

Name

Value

No

Value

Value

Carlow

€4,797,602

32

€1,926,280

€1,047,831

Cavan

€6,391,715

48

€2,937,974

€1,035,548

Clare

€6,645,000

126

€2,437,046

€716,579

Cork North

€3,810,543

52

€1,944,561

€559,971

Cork South

€2,803,477

22

€873,004

€291,376

Cork West

€3,691,755

27

€1,265,267

€203,364

Donegal

€9,631,407

108

€4,805,920

€2,541,080

Dublin Rural

€4,777,829

49

€1,433,976

€467,865

Galway East

€5,741,888

47

€1,768,286

€53,019

Galway West

€3,425,425

31

€685,654

€215,412

Kerry

€7,650,904

222

€4,402,952

€1,632,026

Kildare

€3,946,200

21

€912,242

€211,422

Kilkenny

€5,798,949

61

€1,628,417

€686,708

Laois

€5,325,000

61

€1,374,314

€741,053

Leitrim

€4,490,000

54

€2,032,537

€453,919

Limerick

€6,946,151

78

€4,294,519

€1,268,845

Longford

€5,698,500

54

€1,351,669

€358,706

Louth

€4,576,397

65

€1,740,610

€477,644

Mayo

€8,260,822

121

€4,811,744

€788,010

Meath

€5,137,345

50

€2,182,725

€223,235

Monaghan

€5,694,500

41

€2,420,542

€690,942

Offaly

€6,000,000

126

€2,995,345

€1,119,990

Roscommon

€6,581,283

44

€2,484,487

€546,829

Sligo

€5,720,737

84

€2,679,588

€884,398

Tipperary

€7,562,584

118

€3,926,055

€932,154

Waterford

€5,525,346

50

€3,393,484

€1,657,159

Westmeath

€5,563,495

55

€1,339,403

€402,401

Wexford

€7,580,104

95

€3,465,816

€860,356

Wicklow

€4,728,231

49

€1,331,716

€229,727

Grand Total

€164,503,189

1,991

€68,846,135

€21,297,571

Local and Community Development Programme Planning

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 58.

Questions (60)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

60. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the mid-term review of local economic and community plans will be published; the extent to which each of the sustainable development goals have been incorporated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22879/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

Local Authorities are required to review their Local Economic and Community Plans at least once in their six year life cycle and such a review is now due on the current plans. However, the 2014 Local Government Act also requires each LECP to be consistent with any regional spatial and economic strategy or, as appropriate, regional planning guidelines. 

The Regional Assemblies are currently finalising their Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies in line with the planning process detailed in the 2014 Act. These strategies are expected to be published towards the end of 2019.   

Having consulted with Regional Assemblies in relation to the timing of Local Economic Community Plans (LECPs) mid-term reviews, officials in my Department have recommended that local authorities defer their mid-term reviews until Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy are finalised in order to ensure that the Local Authority plans are in line with the Regional strategies as required in the legislation.

My Department is currently working on a guidance note to support the LECP review process and will engage with LAs in the coming weeks to complete and circulate this guidance. This will include direction on the necessity to incorporate Sustainable Development Goals into their updated LECP.

Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 58.

Town and Village Renewal Scheme

Questions (62)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

62. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when the reports in relation to the town and village pilot residential occupancy scheme from each of the six local authorities will be published; when the pilot scheme will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22880/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I launched the pilot scheme to encourage increased residential occupancy in rural towns and villages last October, and announced that six towns had been invited to participate in the initial pilot.

The primary objective of the scheme is to encourage people to return to living in town centres.  This is part of a wider range of measures being taken across Government to revitalise towns and villages and address the issue of vacant premises. The scheme is being led locally by the relevant Local Authorities, in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, and is overseen by my Department.

The 6 towns which were identified for inclusion in the pilot are:

1. Boyle, Co Roscommon

2. Callan, Co Kilkenny

3. Ballinrobe, Co Mayo

4. Banagher, Co Offaly

5. Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

6. Cappoquin, Co Waterford

Funding of up to €100,000 is being made available to each of these towns to develop proposals to encourage town centre living.  This funding will be used by the Local Authorities to engage with communities and local businesses, and identify practical solutions to increase the number of people living in their town centres.  It is envisaged that the solutions identified could lead to the development of more substantive proposals for funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in due course.

I expect to receive a report from each of the relevant Local Authorities in the next month on the progress which they have made so far.  The lessons learnt through this pilot initiative can help to inform our approach to supporting and investing in rural towns and villages in the future.

Community Services Programme

Questions (63)

Alan Farrell

Question:

63. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the details of the community services programme; the number of groups in receipt of assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22718/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Community Services Programme, or CSP, supports around 400 community organisations to provide local services through a social enterprise model.  Funding is provided as a contribution to the cost of a manager and an agreed number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. 

More than €46 million is available under the programme in 2019.  Between part-time and full-time positions, approximately 3,000 people are supported through the CSP, comprising 1,660 FTEs and 306 managers.

Since my Department took responsibility for the programme in 2018 some 40 new organisations have entered the CSP and additional new entrants are expected during 2019.

My Department recently commenced a review of the programme.  A review was considered opportune as the programme had not been formally reviewed since 2006, during which time the external environment had changed significantly.  

The review will consider how the programme fits with overall Government priorities, as well as with my Department’s other community programmes and policy objectives, and will help inform decisions on the future shape and structure of the CSP.

The review is being carried out by an independent review body, Indecon Consultants.  It will take six months to complete, with a final report expected in early Autumn 2019.

Community Development Initiatives

Questions (64)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

64. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development further to Parliamentary Question No. 1383 of 8 May 2019, the details of the types of information received from the call for input for the national strategy on volunteering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22717/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has collated information received following a Call for Input (CFI) exercise last December that was designed as a first step towards developing a draft national volunteering strategy. This material will be presented to a National Advisory Group on Volunteering, representative of relevant stakeholders, that is scheduled to have its inaugural meeting today,  29 May 2019. I look forward to progressing, in partnership, to the next phase in the development of a Strategy on Volunteering.

Among the areas that stakeholders were asked to provide their views on were: 

- a definition of volunteering;

- a shared vision for the future of Irish volunteering;

- the objectives of a draft volunteering strategy;

- the volunteering community

- governance and funding issues;

- various challenges and opportunities that exist within volunteering today; and 

- monitoring, measuring and evaluating the impact of volunteering in society. 

My Department is making arrangements to have the submissions received from the public published online shortly as outlined in the CFI.

Appointments to State Boards

Questions (65)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

65. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress to date in appointing a CEO to the Charities Regulator and Pobal, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22869/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

A Chief Executive Officer has been appointed to Pobal.  Ms. Anna Shakespeare will commence in this position on August 6th, 2019.

The process of appointing the new Chief Executive Officer of the Charities Regulatory Authority is at an advanced stage and I expect an appointment will be made in the near future.

Local Improvement Scheme

Questions (66)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

66. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the local improvement scheme nationally; his plans to increase funding to clear backlogs on waiting lists for the scheme over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22755/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

The Local Improvement Scheme, or LIS, is a programme for improvement works on small private or non-public roads in rural areas. The scheme is funded by my Department and is administered through the Local Authorities. 

There was no dedicated funding available for this scheme for a number of years due to constraints on public expenditure.  However, I was very conscious of the underlying demand for the scheme in rural areas throughout the country and I re-launched the scheme in 2017.

Since the reintroduction of the scheme I have allocated over €48 million to the LIS, which has led to the completion of over 1,400 roads to date.

On 7th February last I launched the 2019 LIS and allocated a sum of €10 million to Local Authorities under the scheme. Decisions on the number and location of roads to benefit from improvement works in 2019 is a matter for the relevant Local Authority.

Funding allocations on a county by county basis can be found on the Gov.ie website at the following link:https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/d309ea-local-improvement-scheme/.

It is clear that there is a continuing demand for LIS funding in rural communities across Ireland. Funding for the scheme is determined as part of the annual Estimates process.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (67)

Dara Calleary

Question:

67. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development his views on expenditure in his Department up until the end of quarter 1 of 2019 with regard to 2017 and 2018 allocation made for schemes (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22888/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

My Department has made significant investment into communities and rural areas throughout Ireland since 2017 through the schemes referred to by the Deputy.

In general, the level of allocations and expenditure under these schemes has increased year on year, and I am satisfied that good progress is being made in the delivery of projects across these programmes.

In many cases, projects funded under the programmes in question can take 12 to 18 months to complete and payments are made only when significant milestones are met.  In some instances, projects must be fully completed before payments will be made.    

I monitor expenditure on all my Department's programmes on an on-going basis to ensure that my Department's budget is used as effectively as possible.

My Department's overall budget for 2018 was €238.5 million and expenditure was €238.8 million.  This represents a spend of 99.3% of the available allocation.  The shortfall related mostly to administrative savings within my Department's Vote.

Local Development Companies Administration

Questions (68)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

68. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress of the training programme for procurement staff in local development companies and local authorities administering the Leader programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22873/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

In April of this year, my Department commenced the delivery of a one-day training programme on procurement to upskill staff in the Local Development Companies (LDC) and the Local Authorities administering the LEADER programme. The aim of the training course is to equip project officers and other relevant personnel with the skills and knowledge to better assist project applicants in navigating the national public procurement requirements when preparing requests for tenders.

To date, training has been delivered to Local Authority and LDC staff at nine training sessions held at four regional locations. The final session is scheduled to be delivered on 11th June.

A total of 187 individuals will have received procurement training nationally by the time all of the sessions have been concluded.