Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the legislation that will be used to amalgamate LEADER and Integrated local development companies into local authorities under Putting People First; if their financing will be ring fenced; the discussions he has held with the bodies involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54347/12]
There are no proposals to amalgamate local development companies into local authorities. The repot, Putting People First: Action Programme for Effective Local Government, recommends greater alignment between local government and local development, including the 51 local development companies that currently deliver important programmes for the Department. This follows from the Government's acceptance of the recommendations made by the steering group on alignment between local government and local development. The group's report was published alongside Putting People First and is available on the Department's website at www.environ.ie. Under those recommendations, local development companies will continue to have a role in local development activities and programmes. The availability of funding to local development companies and the level of such funding is dependent on the programme activities that they are contracted to deliver, and therefore ring-fencing of funding has not in the past arisen and does not now arise. In line with the alignment steering group's recommendations, the local development model is to be retained and local development companies will continue to have a delivery role.
Both the Minister, Deputy Hogan, and the Department have met the representatives of local development companies on these matters and this dialogue will continue as the alignment process is advanced.
Both the Minister, Deputy Hogan, and the Department officials have met representatives of local development companies on these matters. This dialogue will continue as the alignment process is advanced.
I thank the Minister of State for what appears to be a concise answer. I accept his statement that there is no proposal to amalgamate but rather to align them. I am sure that will consist of a sharing of facilities and administrative staff. If that is the case, will it have a knock-on effect on existing administrative staff who are employed by these agencies? Can the Minister of State categorically say that funding that has heretofore been given to these agencies for distribution among the communities they serve and represent will be ring-fenced?
The Minister of State says he has spoken to some of the agencies' representatives. I have had numerous contacts with different agencies, Leader groups and development companies in recent weeks. I agree with the concept but will this process be negotiated to achieve the end result rather than being imposed? No success can be gained by imposition and a lack of negotiation in arriving at a solution one wants to see.
Can the Minister of State confirm that all funding for these programmes will be ring-fenced and can be expected to continue as heretofore? Will administrative staff be shared and, if so, will it mean a loss of jobs in those agencies? Is there a timeframe for the negotiations, when will they progress and when are they likely to conclude?
The report refers to new synergies between local government and development agencies. As regards sharing facilities, if there is space in a local authority office, why should a development agency not go in there, if it is free from its lease? It makes sense to reduce costs, including electricity. The key issue is that it will be recommended, where possible, and it is very practical in that more money will go to the front line for community projects. According to the review group, of the €135 million involved in the four main programmes, €35 million was spent on administration and overheads. There is no issue about people keeping their jobs, but we will get new synergies and will reduce our costs.
Like the Deputy, I have met people from the network. Their views are clear, as is the Government's view. It will remain a bottom-up approach and they will make a contribution, especially at the socioeconomic committees in local authorities, to be established by legislation. Their views will be very important and they will have a dedicated role to perform.
Is there a timescale for whatever negotiations or discussions take place to satisfy these agencies? Such a timescale would allow the Minister of State to agree a means by which this can take place seamlessly. It would be to their satisfaction as well as the Government's and, ultimately, to the satisfaction of those whom they represent and whose funding the Government targets in various areas. That is all I am asking. There should be an arrangement and an understanding that this can be done in partnership.
The local development network is an important part of the process and pays a significant local and national contribution. The Minister will establish an implementation group shortly and the network will be part of that. This is to make better use of the money we have through new synergies and directing money to the front line. I can assure the Deputy that nobody is dictating the pace. It will be a bottom-up approach. The commitment and contribution that development agencies currently give will continue in the new socioeconomic committees. This will involve other stakeholders, including public private partnerships, local authority members and voluntary groups, in order that the good work will continue into the future.