Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Community and Rural Support Schemes: Statements
I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for his detailed report. I acknowledge what other Senators have said. These are good schemes but we all accept that more funding is needed for them.
I am particularly interested in the Department because it is relatively new. It is good at telling its story and it has a very interactive website. Clearly, there is a lot of news and spin but the Department is good at that, which is not a bad thing. I interface on a regular basis with all of the 900 plus councillors around the country for various reasons and use an awful lot of their information because it is important to communities and I find it valuable. Local councillors like to hear about the activities of the Department because they touch on communities and assist in expanding the capacity of local communities to empower themselves and get on with projects. However, funding is an issue The town and village renewal scheme is effective but there is not enough money for it. Senator Conway-Walsh's comment on funding was correct. I acknowledge regulatory arrangements must be in place but there is significant bureaucracy, red tape and forms for relatively small amounts. In some cases groups have been turned for funding because of the way they dealt with their applications. My experience of the LEADER programme and the town and village renewal scheme is positive. I would like them to have more money, given more people are interested in the scheme.
The Tidy Towns scheme is fantastic and even in my community, volunteers are doing what the local authorities should be doing and they are exhausted. I agree that we should encourage people to improve their communities but, for example, where the Tidy Towns committees are active, the local authorities have pulled back and volunteers now clean the streets. Some groups find it difficult to get their local authorities to dispose of the waste and stuff that they have cleaned up. However, on the whole the scheme is good. The seniors alert schemes and others are basic measures. While it is great to talk about them, they should form part of the standard support provided to communities.
I welcome the fact that the Minister of State has come to the House and I welcome his update on the schemes. I suppose we would all say here that we need a hell of an awful lot more money for them but I wish him well. I acknowledge that this is a relatively new Department but it has stayed focused. However, I have heard all the announcements and I am not sure that so many of them need to be made. The Department announces them, then it announces it is doing them and then it announces it has done them. The press people in the Department are busy and they have worked well to tell the story. Well done.