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Local and Community Development Programme Planning

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 23 October 2013

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Ceisteanna (7)

John Browne

Ceist:

7. Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has met officials representing local development companies; if he will provide an update on his plans for local development programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44865/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Environment)

The vision and focus underpinning the enhanced alignment of local government and local development is to achieve a more joined-up approach to service delivery at local level. This will be supported by new local governance arrangements that will seek to enhance involvement by citizens and communities in the implementation and targeting of services. The new measures will see the introduction of local community development committees in each local authority area which will be tasked with developing a six year city and county local and community plan for each area encompassing State-funded local and community development programmes and interventions. The Local Government Bill 2013 contains provisions for these new arrangements.

There is significant engagement between my Department and the Irish Local Development Network, which represents the 50 local development companies, in the implementation of the alignment recommendations. This process is being supported by an alignment working group which comprises my Department and representatives of the County and City Managers Association and Pobal, as well as the Irish Local Development Network.

I met representatives of the Irish Local Development Network on several occasions to discuss these matters. As well as addressing the reforms set out in the Putting People First document, I have discussed with them the challenges that will arise from reduced funding and the need to ensure we sustain a focus on front-line services while critically analysing the costs of administration involved with local development programmes and structures. I look forward to the continued co-operation of the ILDN as we are advancing the reforms necessary in this area.

I thank the Minister for his reply but his statement is not in keeping with what I am being told by the staff of the companies. I understand the Minister may have met the chairman of the groups approximately three months ago but nothing has happened to date. Staff tell me they are in limbo and that there have been no negotiations or dialogue to date. Are the jobs guaranteed in the new set-up in the local authority? When will the Minister have real negotiations with the people involved? Will there be forced redundancies? The county managers tell me they have a significant overload of staff in their local authorities. They want to know how they are supposed to manage the new staff when they come in. The Minister must accept that a good deal of expertise has been built up over the years in the local development groups. It is important the staff are maintained but it is as important the staff have an opportunity for real dialogue and discussion and for them to be told what will happen in 2014.

I regret that Deputy Browne has not been fully informed by the staff in Wexford. There is an ongoing alignment process in which three chief executives-----

Nothing is happening.

There is something. They met again yesterday. It was the seventh meeting they have had this year. Deputy Browne is not fully informed. The three chief executives of the development network that are representing the staff to whom Deputy Browne referred should be in a position to tell those staff what is going on. These are private companies. This is the structure the Fianna Fáil-led Government set up. I am not responsible or involved in staff negotiations or employment or company law matters. It is a matter for Wexford Local Development as well as other local development companies.

It is the Minister's Department.

The Department funds the companies to carry out and service programmes on behalf of the Department, but the companies employing the staff are private companies, like Wexford Local Development.

Those staff will be involved at local authority level and that is under the control of the Minister. At that stage, the Minister would have a duty to ensure the jobs of the staff are protected.

No one has said these staff will be employees of local authorities. I am unsure from where Deputy Browne got that information. These are private companies employing private staff. They must make their own provisions on the basis of the contracts they have signed over a five year period, and that is what they are doing. Negotiations are ongoing. A meeting took place yesterday. As soon as I have a final report, I will be pleased to tell the House, but I imagine Deputy Browne will be able to tell the staff they should contact the representatives of the ILDN, three of which are chief executives of companies involved in the negotiations, to find out what is going on.

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