Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Ceisteanna (95, 96, 97)

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

171 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the plans he has to extend the CLÁR areas; if he has planned any further review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3196/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

182 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date with regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3101/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

207 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the type of projects that he will fund under the CLÁR programme in 2004; if he will have sufficient funds to cover existing programmes and new initiatives; if the CLÁR programme will benefit from funds from dormant accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3199/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171, 182 and 207 together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. The Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. The Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these on 17 January 2003. Areas in 18 counties are now included in the programme and there is no plan for a further review or to make any further changes to the boundary of CLÁR areas.

CLÁR funds, or co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These measures support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a variety of measures such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village enhancement, health, broadband and sports projects. The measures introduced under the programme reflect the priorities identified by the communities in these areas whom I consulted at the outset.

The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I intend to continue this practice for any new measures, depending on needs identified. Equally, I will keep under review the operation of existing measures.

The merits of this practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and to €8.613 million in 2003 which, it is estimated, levered a further €17 million in related public and private expenditure into the areas which otherwise would have been bottom of the list for infrastructure investment. The provision for 2004 is €10.74 million and will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures of the programme while providing the scope for the introduction of possible new measures as may be identified during the year.

Allocations from the dormant accounts fund will be targeted at programmes or projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. I strongly believe that a reasonable proportion of the moneys available should be directed towards projects in areas designated by Government as experiencing particular social and economic disadvantage. In the first 12 months 40% of the disbursement of the spend will be directed on programmes or projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. Every year after that, these areas will receive not less than half of the 40% annual allocation, with the balance available to all areas.

With the ongoing co-operation of other Departments, State agencies and public utilities, CLÁR will continue to deliver on the commitment of supporting rural communities.

Questions Nos. 172 and 173 answered with Question No. 151.