Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Leader Programmes Administration
4. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made to date in selecting entities to deliver the SICAP and Leader programmes 2014-20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34560/14]
There has been much controversy about SICAP and the linked Leader programme and its relationship to development companies. I am interested in getting an update from the Minister on what is happening, the basis for decisions made and whether the interest of all communities in Ireland are being properly represented in what is happening.
I thank the Deputy for the question and I welcome the opportunity to address it. As outlined in the draft rural development programme 2014-20, submitted to the European Commission in July 2014, it is intended that Ireland will use a two-step process to select local development strategies for the delivery of the Leader elements of the programme. Step one of the process, which is due to commence in the coming weeks, will seek expressions of interest from interested parties who wish to be considered and selected as qualifying local action groups, LAGs. Minimum qualifying criteria are being finalised and will be made available.
It is envisaged that stage two of the process will commence before the end of 2014 and qualifying groups will be allowed a minimum of six months to develop and submit local development strategies for assessment and possible selection.
A competitive public procurement process is currently under way for the successor to my Department’s local and community development programme, LCDP. The procurement process for the new social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, is open to local development companies, other not-for-profit community groups, commercial firms and national organisations, that can provide the services to be tendered for to deliver the new programme. The closing date for receipt of expressions of interest under stage one of the process was 11 July 2014. Stage two, which is the invitation to tender stage, is due to get under way in October and will involve the successful applicants from stage one being invited to apply to one or more local community development committees to deliver the programme in their areas. Contracts for the delivery of SICAP, due to roll out in 2015, will be put in place following the outcome of that process.
From the Minister's comment, it seems possible that a different company will deliver the SICAP programme with a separate company delivering the Leader programme in the same geographic area. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether it is possible under the new arrangement.
Under the rural development plan sent to Brussels, despite the population of Galway and the fact that it is physically divided between east and west, it is proposed to have only one LAG in the county. Can the Minister confirm that he will stick with that decision?
Yes, it is possible to have different companies administering the two areas. Whether it is likely is a different question but it is possible. There are 28 LAGs and there are no plans to change what has been announced, which includes one in Galway. The Deputy has raised the issue through various outlets. The issue is to ensure consistency of approach. There is a specific issue in respect of Cork, given its scale, but outside of that it is about what is put forward in the plans and ensuring the requirements of a certain area are covered. Galway has specific nuances, given the Gaeltacht status of some areas.
I have engaged with the process and I will ensure that every aspect is covered in order to negate any concerns of some specific area within a unit of the LAG, for example, in Galway.
The Minister is saying that Cork gets three local action groups, even though the county does not have the geographical differences so clearly defined and nor has it three times the rural population of Galway. Therefore, Cork gets three and Galway gets one, despite the fact that one cannot drive from east Galway to west Galway without going through another local authority area. I ask the Minister to confirm that he also seems to be saying there will be no LAG for the islands this time and that each island will be part of the LAG for the respective county. I ask him to outline for me the arrangements to be made in the Gaeltacht counties to ensure services through the Irish language right up board level for those who live in the Gaeltacht areas.
The Deputy has asked a number of questions. It is Government policy that where it can be agreed locally the local community development committees will be the lead local action groups for their respective areas. We are in constant conversation with Irish Local Development Network, ILDN, and we will be talking to them again tomorrow. I have worked with these groups over a lengthy period and we are working with them in a spirit of co-operation.
Cork has specific historical issues and issues of scale. The Deputy has identified issues relating to Galway. I come from a county of similar size, if not bigger,-----
It is of a similar size and it has specific issues of its own but it will have one LAG.
In reply to the Deputy's question about the islands and the Irish language, it will be ensured that the submissions will reflect the islands' specific requirements and the need to ensure that the Irish language is covered. These matters will be dealt with as part of the submissions. If there is a need to revisit the policy because certain LAGs have not contributed sufficiently in one area or sector, then we will revisit it.