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Debates: Local development – concern grows

In the Seanad, Kathryn Reilly (SF, industrial & commercial) spoke of the frustration about the manner in which the alignment process had unfolded (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 20th February 2014, 1002-3).  There was a great deal of confusion which the minister must clarify.  She had received correspondence from groups like Breffni Integrated and Monaghan Integrated Development and there was a great deal of concern about what the future held for these groups.

 

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Fergus O’Dowd replied to Kathryn Reilly when she further raised these concerns (Seanad Eireann, Debates 26th February 2014, 109-111).  She said that the future for the local development companies was unclear and that the alignment working group had not met since September.  Clumsy handling had caused disarray.  The requirement for a tender was a bone of contention and there was concern that existing expertise be lost.  The minister of state told her that the department had engaged with stakeholders and voluntary and community organizations.  It was simply not possible to guarantee a continued high level of funding for the bodies involved.  Legal advice was that the department was procure delivery of the programme, a significant change to the previous arrangement which awarded the programme public contracts without a competitive process – but granted their experience, the companies were well placed to submit applications.  LEADER did not require competitive tendering processes.  Change was challenging for all but it was necessary to ensure the optimum use of scarce resources and he was confident that the outcome would be a strong and robust local and community development model.  

 

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan told Gerald Nash (Lab, Louth) that it was not correct that no meetings had taken place since September: there had been three with the Irish Local Development Network and a further one was scheduled for 6th March, as well as others with voluntary and community sector representatives and local government (Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th February 2014, 279).

 

He told Maureen O’Sullivan (ind, Dublin central) that the 2015 successor programme would be subject to approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and compliance with the new Public Spending Code; and would have a clear synergy with the National Reform Programme and the Common Strategic Framework; while the department would do its utmost to ensure business continuity.

> Tendering process: Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th February 2014, 278-9.