Section 46 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides the legislative basis which gives effect to the Framework for Public Participation and the Public Participation Networks (PPNs). This Act, which amends section 127 of the Local Government Act 2001, requires each local authority, in accordance with general policy guidelines issued by the Minister, to adopt a Framework for Public Participation in Local Government for the purposes of promoting, developing and implementing a coherent and integrated approach to participation in decision-making processes of the local authority.
General guidelines on the operation of PPNs were issued by the Department in 2014, followed by a number of Departmental Circular Letters and a PPN User Guide in 2016, which is currently being reviewed.
PPNs have been established in all local authority areas. Some are more firmly established than others, largely reflecting the timing of set-up arrangements, the recruitment of resource workers and the formation of the various groupings required for PPNs to function. Nonetheless, substantial progress has been made in the ongoing development of PPNs since their initial establishment, with over 15,000 member groups recorded nationally at the end of 2018. I am aware that Limerick PPN is not currently operational and my officials are working closely with Limerick City and County Council to have the PPN re-established as soon as possible.
Since 2015, up to €50,000 has been provided annually by my Department in respect of each PPN, provided this was supplemented by a minimum of €30,000 from the local authorities' own resources. Other supports provided by the local authorities include the provision of office accommodation and equipment, reimbursement of PPN representatives' expenses for those members who sit on local authority boards or committees and a contribution towards the cost of the recruitment of a PPN Support Worker in 2019, to assist the PPN Resource Worker.
In addition, two local authority officials represent the local authority sector on the National PPN Advisory Group, which advises and supports the Department in relation to the ongoing development of PPNs.