Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Local Development Companies Administration
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I wish to raise on the Adjournment the concerns that have been raised with me on the alignment process.
The local development companies have a very strong track record and expertise in the area of programme delivery and have in the past number of decades strengthened local democracy and community engagement and participation. They have successfully delivered a range of programmes on behalf of a number of Departments. I know the Minister will be aware of that. As a result of the bottom-up community-led approach that these local development companies, LDCs, have adopted they have unrivalled expertise in their ranks, local knowledge, local recognition of their work in the communities and they offer value for money in the delivery of the programmes. The community-led local development approach of delivering a broad range of programmes to tackle social exclusion, supporting rural development and job creation and enterprise at local level has been successfully delivered by the LDCs. The European Commission has previously endorsed this approach to local development and recommended that this be adopted across other EU funds.
At this time it is not clear what the future holds or how local development companies will navigate their way into the next funding period. It is essential that clarity is provided so that proper planning can be undertaken to manage changing circumstances and to ensure that these LDCs can make the transition to the next funding period. The Minister established an alignment working group, bringing together representatives of the Irish Local Development Network, ILDN, County and City Managers' Association, Pobal and Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government staff to work through proposals as to how the alignment proposals should unfold. Unfortunately the alignment working group, as far as I am aware, has not met since September 2013 and the recent release by the Department of documentation to front-runner local authorities and then to all local authorities without sending them to the ILDN has in its eyes undermined the credibility of the alignment working group process. It has frustrated members of the network. There is great concern on the ground about this. To be frank, the clumsy handling of this has caused a great deal of disarray in the community sector and especially in rural areas. With the changes to the link community development, LCD, programme that are being proposed and the current Leader funding finishing, the timeframe associated with the process is challenging the continuity of delivery of frontline services, and we face challenges if the services are to be maintained.
There is a lack of clarity on the delivery mechanisms and the contractual arrangements between the local community development committees, LCDCs, and local development companies. This has created a lot of uncertainty in my area as is the case in the Cavan-Monaghan Leader joint venture companies Breffni Integrated Limited and Monaghan Integrated Development.
It is on behalf of these groups that I express my concern at the direction of the alignment process, nationally. I am concerned that damage will be done to the delivery of community and local development programmes at a time when demand for these services and initiatives has never been greater. We cannot afford to allow this to happen, especially in rural areas, which need every venture possible in order to boost the economy and keep jobs afloat.
The ILDN wants four issues discussed and perhaps the Minister of State will touch on them today. First, the requirement that LCDCs will hold a tender process for the delivery of successor programmes through the local community development programme. That is very important and is a bone of contention.
Second, the urgent need to provide Leader programme transitional funding for a number of LDCs. Third, the proposal that LDCs will become local action groups in the context of the Leader programme. Fourth, the implications of such a decision for relevant LDCs and the management of communications to the ILDN in the alignment process. These are some of the issues that have arisen. They are important on the ground and community groups are concerned that expertise could be lost should the process not be handled properly.