Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Rural Development Plan
6. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the implementation process for the report of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, and the specific Departments of Government that will be involved; the funds available to implement this report in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6682/15]
I ask the Minister about the CEDRA report, the recommendations of which we need to get rolled out. We need to get them up and running in the near future. I would ask the Minister what is the position regarding the availability of funds to implement this programme.
The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, CEDRA, published its report in 2014. The report contained 34 recommendations focussed on supporting the medium-term economic development of rural areas in the period up to 2025. I was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for rural affairs in July 2014, and in line with the recommendations in the CEDRA report, I immediately established the CEDRA Interdepartmental Group, IDG.
The IDG, which is made up of representatives from all relevant Departments, is currently working in a co-ordinated way to ensure that Departments' policy development and implementation fully consider the needs of rural communities. It is about maximising the financial resources already available for rural development and ensuring that these resources are directed in a way that best supports the sustainable economic development of rural areas. That group has a work programme and actions, and those actions are time-lined for 2015.
In order to maintain strong links with those in rural Ireland who are involved in or have a strong interest in the economic development of rural areas and communities, both the Minister, Deputy Kelly and I recently established an expert advisory group to monitor progress and provide advice in respect of the implementation of the recommendations in the CEDRA report. This group will be chaired by Mr. Pat Spillane whose determination and energy was critical to the CEDRA consultation and report process in 2013 and 2014.
On the Deputy's query regarding the funds available to implement this report in 2015, the intention was not to allocate a specific budget for the purposes of implementing the recommendations of the CEDRA report rather to ensure that all relevant stakeholders maximise the potential of available funding streams to support the economic development of rural areas. There is much-----
This is the most important job, in Deputy Ann Phelan's role as Minister of State, to deliver on.
There is undue delay since the instigation of this report for which Mr. Spillane was appointed to go and carry out a complete investigation around rural areas. He held meetings in every corner of the country. He came up with some wonderful material. He listened to all concerned. Everybody got an insight into the real deep problems regarding the devastation of the countryside which has been largely ignored, except for the Leader groups. There is a void regarding Leader at present. There is a vacuum in the provision of funding for these rural areas and for all the entrepreneurs and various proposals that need to be developed.
This is like a report on a report. This is a continuation of pious platitudes and nothing being done. I ask the Minister of State and the senior Minister, Deputy Kelly, to get stuck into this. Deputy Kelly has deep connections in my county, Kerry-----
I can assure Deputy Tom Fleming of my commitment to rural Ireland. I come from the rural parts that we are trying to energise. I have seen, not just since this Government was established but over the past number of years, where these rural communities were completely forgotten and left abandoned, and it is now my job to energise those.
The announcement on pilot schemes for the development of the rural economic development zones is imminent.
In addition, the funding that supports the CEDRA report's recommendations is from the rural development programme and particularly the Leader element of that. Some €250 million will support enterprise, innovation and job creation in rural communities. I can assure the Deputy that I am determined to energise rural communities.
I repeat that time is of the essence in this regard. We certainly need to get down to work immediately and deliver this programme, especially with the large number of investigations and examinations of all the problems and difficulties involved. The kernel of this situation is how much additional money will be allocated for CEDRA in order to roll it out in every rural community. What is the plan for the programme and how much funding will be available? There is a great need for proper financial supports to be put in place. Regional committees and sub-committees could work locally to implement this programme to the maximum advantage of those who require it.
I assure the Deputy that rural development programme funding will be examined in order to support the CEDRA report's recommendations. That report has been allocated a budget of €1 million for specific innovation projects. The roll-out of rural development zones is imminent and we will be working closely with local authorities on local development strategies. We must align all that funding to use it in a targeted fashion, thus supporting community enterprise and job creation. Time is of the essence for me also, so we will not be standing around. In the coming weeks, I will be accepting expressions of interest in the rural development programme. It is all coming into play.