Tuesday, 31 May 2022
Department of Rural and Community Development
Flexible Work Practices
852. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development when successful projects in County Clare will be announced under the connected hubs fund to support the further development of remote working facilities across the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27849/22]
Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, recognises the potential of remote working hubs as key economic assets for our rural towns and villages. Notwithstanding the clear benefits to individuals and families in terms of quality of life indicators, remote working from hubs will also support local economies, reduce carbon emissions and may arrest or reverse the depopulation of certain areas. Accordingly, over recent years my department has invested some €100 million in the sector, to build, improve and expand hubs.
Last May, I launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the connectedhubs.ie platform. The platform offers a suite of booking and hub management applications to members of the Network. There are currently 236 hubs live on the platform, with this number increasing on an ongoing basis. In total 8 of these 236 hubs are located in county Clare, with a further 14 hubs in county Clare mapped for invitation to join the network.
The attached table provides a full breakdown of connected hub platform figures.
My Department continues to fund the establishment and development of remote working hubs under a number of funding streams. For example, under the Connected Hubs 2021 funding call, over €209,700 was awarded to Clare County Council to fund 5 hub facilities within the county.
In February, I launched the 2022 Connected Hubs Call, a €5 million funding stream to further support remote working facilities (including BCPs) throughout the country and to add further capacity to the National Hub Network. The 2022 evaluation process has now concluded and I will be announcing the successful applicants very shortly.
Details of successful applicants will be available on www.gov.ie.
The development of a National Hubs Network is a key commitment in Our Rural Future and I am committed to continuing my Department's support for the ongoing development of a comprehensive and integrated network of remote working hubs in recognition of the vital role that they can play in our post-Covid recovery.
853. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the estimated cost of developing the 400 remote working hubs and the requisite support services identified in Our Rural Future and for additional remote working hubs in each of the 31 local authority areas across the country in 2023; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27943/22]
Our Rural Future, Ireland’s Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, recognises the opportunity for rural rejuvenation that remote working presents and commits to establishing a comprehensive and integrated network of remote working hubs over the lifetime of the policy to 2025.
In recognition of this, my Department continues to invest heavily in the establishment and strategic development of remote work hub facilities through various funding streams and initiatives, including via the development of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) as long-term, digitally-enabled community assets.
To date my Department has invested approximately €100m in the development of remote working facilities across a range of schemes. For example, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme both support the establishment of digital hubs.
Under last year's schemes, projects that bring vacant properties in town centres back into use as remote working hubs were eligible for funding. The repurposing of existing community or publicly owned buildings in town or village centres to facilitate remote working were also eligible to apply.
In December 2021, a call for applications under the RRDF was announced. The fourth call for Category 1 applications closed on the 29th April 2022. To date RRDF has provided funding €76m in funding to remote working facilities.
In February of this year I announced almost €18.5m for projects under the 2021 Town and Village
Renewal Scheme. This included support for 28 projects related to remote working and hubs. I have also recently launched the 2022 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which will again include an opportunity for the funding of projects that repurpose vacant buildings as remote working hubs.
This year I have also included a new Building Acquisition Measure as part of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme to support local authorities to purchase vacant and derelict buildings in 2022 for future development as community facilities, including remote working.
In addition to these funding streams, I have also made available significant funding for hubs to develop their capacity and facilities. Last May, I launched the National Connected Hubs network together with the connectedhubs.ie platform. The platform offers a suite of booking and hub management applications to members of the Network. There are currently 236 hubs live on the platform, with this number increasing on an ongoing basis. Table 1 contains a full breakdown for the Connected Hubs platform figures.
To support this expansion I provided the Western Development Commission with additional funding of €250k to develop connnectedhubs.ieas a national brand. This money also funded a national promotional campaign which was launched in February to raise awareness of the Connected Hubs network to relevant stakeholders, including SMEs/business owners and new hub users.
In addition, I have committed to funding the on-boarding and operational costs of the connectedhubs.ie platform for hubs across the country for the next 3 years. This is expected to cost in the region of €1.3m.
In July 2021, I allocated almost €9 million through the 2021 Connected Hubs Fund, which supported over 100 hubs and BCPs, enabling applicants to develop and leverage the capacity and quality of existing remote working facilities across the country. For example Galway County Council received approximately €230,000 to further develop eight BCP facilities throughout their county. Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre benefitted from approximately €71,000 in Connected Hubs 2021 funding.
In February this year, I launched the 2022 Connected Hubs Call, allocating a further €5 million in funding to add additional capacity to the existing remote working infrastructure in remote working hubs and Broadband Connection Points throughout the country. The closing date for this round of funding was 4 April. The evaluation process has now concluded and I will be announcing the successful applicants very shortly.
The development of a National Hubs Network is a key commitment in Our Rural Future and I am committed to continuing my Department's support for the ongoing strategic development of a comprehensive and integrated network of remote working hubs in recognition of the vital role that they can play in our post-Covid recovery.
TABLE 1 – Connectedhubs.ie - Remote Working Hubs by County (as of the 23rd May 2022)
|County||Live on the connectedhubs.ie platform||Mapped to be invited to join the connectedhubs.ie platform|