Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Ceisteanna (14)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

14. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the expenditure outturn in 2018 under the CLÁR programme; when he plans to invite applications for funding under the 2019 programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2984/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Rural)

I ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of the expenditure outturn in 2018 under the CLÁR programme; when he plans to invite applications for funding under the 2019 programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The CLÁR programme provides funding for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas that have experienced significant levels of depopulation. The aim of CLÁR is to support the sustainable development of designated CLÁR areas with the aim of encouraging people to continue live and work in those areas.

CLÁR was closed for new applications from 2010 to 2016, when I reintroduced the programme. Since then, more than 1,200 projects have been approved for funding of €25 million under CLÁR. The type of projects which have been supported include safety measures around schools and community facilities, the provision of play areas, supports for first responders in emergency situations, and a measure to provide vehicles to transport people to cancer care and respite centres. Total payments under the CLÁR programme in 2018 amounted to €6.9 million. This figure includes some payments in respect of 2017 CLÁR project approvals where projects continued into 2018. It is my intention to launch a further call for proposals under CLÁR this year. Decisions regarding specific measures to be supported in 2019 will be made shortly, and I anticipate that the programme will be opened for new applications in the first quarter of the year.

I thank the Minister. CLÁR is an important scheme. We did quite well in County Clare in last year's allocations. We scored in Kilmaley, Quilty and O'Callaghans Mills under measure 1. That funding allocation means a lot to those communities. The school communities of Coore, Doolin, Drumandoora, Labasheeda and Rineen also benefited from funding. I compliment the Minister on allowing an appeal for the first time under the CLÁR grants last year with regard to measure 2 projects. Two schools in County Clare, Lisdoonvarna national school and Tubber national school were successful on appeal. They were able to draw down in the region of €50,000 each. I encourage the Minister to keep that appeals mechanism in place in the new round.

I thank the Deputy for his comments. He is right that the CLÁR programme is great. I can target it and look at ways to deal with rural and urban disadvantage to see what can be done. I have initiated a review of the CLÁR programme in light of the 2016 census figures. Many areas may not need to be in CLÁR now, but there are many which should be in it. I find that myself in my area, where I see areas that have moved on. I need to look at ways to get areas in that are not in the CLÁR programme. The Deputy is quite correct that the measures we have introduced have worked well. I have seen the benefits of it from schemes that I went around the country to look at and that I have opened. The community itself contributes to it. It is a great scheme and I am delighted that I reopened it. It works well. I want the money we have allocated to be spent. The most important issue for me is to make sure that the money is spent on the projects which we have approved.

I welcome the Minister's confirmation to the House that there will be a review of CLÁR. Large areas of County Clare are not included in the CLÁR area, including Corofin, areas of Inch, Clarecastle, Newmarket, Quin and Clooney. Will the Minister let me know when he expects this review to conclude? If a project is not within the plan area, it will not be able to draw down money. This money makes a significant difference to communities which can apply for it.

The review has taken place. I hope that it will be completed some time this year. I will open the CLÁR programme soon and the review will not be done on time for these people, but it will be for the next round. It needs to be done. We need to consider the 2016 census figures. It has been many years since we reviewed the CLÁR programme and it is time that we did it. The Deputy is correct that many areas should be in the CLÁR programme and that many areas have moved on and may not need to be in it. We need to make sure that we support areas that need to be in it.