Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Local Development Companies Administration
The approach that the Minister is pursuing, regarding the enhanced alignment between local government and local development, is part of the Government approved local government reforms contained in Putting People First - Action Programme for Effective Local Government. His aim is to bring about greater co-ordination and targeting of scarce resources, reduce duplication and to provide a more efficient and cost effective delivery of local services.
There has been good progress to date, with input from the alignment working group which he established to advise him on the implementation of the alignment recommendations. As part of this process, my Department has had ongoing contact with the Irish Local Development Network, the representative organisation for 50 local partnership companies. There have also been a number of bilateral meetings with the network and the Minister has met them on several occasions and plans to do so again shortly. He wants to emphasise that there has been a substantial amount of engagement with the local partnership companies on the alignment process. The partnership companies are not the only stakeholders and, in that regard, the Minister and his Department have met representatives of the community and voluntary sector who are also important stakeholders.
The changes arising under alignment, including the establishment of local community development committees, will bring challenges for the companies relating to structures and staffing. In the context of achieving better value for money, with continuing constraint on programme budgets and the requirement to undertake a procurement process for the delivery of the local community development programme, it is simply not possible to guarantee a continued high level of funding for all of the bodies involved. These issues are part of the ongoing dialogue with local partnership companies. He recognises, in particular, that the legal advice, to the effect that my Department must procure the delivery of the local community development programme, is a significant change to the previous arrangement which awarded the companies these public contracts without any competitive process. We will manage the programme in line with the legal advice and procurement requirements. I have confidence that, given their expertise and experience, the companies are very well placed to submit robust applications for future delivery of the programme.
The issue of procurement does not have the same implications for the Leader programme which is implemented by 35 of the 50 local development companies. Leader is covered by EU regulations that sets out conditions by which the programme must be implemented and these do not require a competitive tendering process. I see the partnership companies as key partners on the new local community development committees, with a strong implementation role under Leader and very similar to the delivery role that they currently have.
Change processes are challenging for all concerned but change is necessary, both as part of the overall local government reforms and to ensure the optimum use of scarce resources, especially for valuable local development funding. I am confident that if we continue, as we have done in the past 12 months, to work in partnership and engage openly, the result will be a strong and robust local and community development model that will deliver real and sustainable results for citizens and communities.