I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 together.
I refer the Deputy to earlier questions on this topic, in particular my reply to Question No. 76 on 21 October 2003, my reply to Question No. 108 and allied questions on 26 March 2003, and my reply to Questions No.s 330 and 331 on 28 January 2004.
As indicated in these replies, the Government recognises that local and community development measures are contributing significantly to tackling a range of challenges at local and community level. These range from drugs, unemployment and youth services to community and enterprise development. With their bottom-up approach and the active involvement of local communities, they are a key mechanism, not just for innovative local responses and for delivery of services, but also as critical input for public policy.
However, the structures employed to deliver these programmes vary considerably. The number and complexity of structures now involved is both extensive and complex. These arrangements can be confusing and present difficulties for the very communities they are designed to serve.
With this in mind, I undertook a review of the structures employed in the delivery of local and community development programmes with my colleagues' the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The review incorporated a comprehensive consultation process, as agreed with the social partners, and an independent review of Area Development Management Limited, ADM.
Our purpose is to ensure these structures best support communities in tackling disadvantage to the greatest extent possible.
Arising from the review, we brought forward proposals which Government has now agreed. These are designed to: improve delivery of services on the ground; improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered; re-affirm Government's commitment to local and community development programmes; improve cohesion and focus across various measures; and enable communities to more readily access and make maximum use of the funding available.
The main features of the measures agreed by Government are community and local development groups across urban, rural and Gaeltacht areas are being requested to bring forward measures for improved alignment of structures in their respective areas by mid-year. This process will be co-ordinated by the local county and city development boards, CDBs.
Funding is being earmarked to support specific co-ordinated measures emerging from this process. This will continue over the next three years. The focus of this funding will be towards enhanced service provision. Except in exceptional circumstances Departments and public bodies will look to existing local or community development bodies and-or local authorities for delivery of any further initiatives in this area. In this way, additional expenditures can be prioritised towards services rather than administration.
Restructuring of ADM is to be undertaken to take account of changes since its inception. CDBs will be asked to consider and endorse plans prepared by community and local development agencies. This will help secure better co-ordination of services on the ground. The role of CDBs in overseeing and promoting an integrated approach to service provision at local and community level is also being underlined. I will continue to seek improvements in the alignment of community development structures falling within the remit of my Department. Our Departments, as appropriate, will be in contact directly with the agencies affected by the decisions in the near future.