Community development

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Dormant accounts

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, introduced to the Seanad the Dormant accounts (amendment) Bill 2001 to dissolve the Dormant Accounts Board and transfer its functions to the minister  (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 12th October 2011, 745-758).  He reminded the Seanad that the McCarthy report had recommended its dissolution, which would save €1.7m.

 

Dormant accounts had been allocated to people who were economically or socially disadvantaged, educationally disadvantaged, or with a disability.   Alleviation of disadvantage was a common thread and the government was fully committed to continuing to use the fund for such projects and type of work.   Because it was private citizens’ money, there was a public expectation that the disbursement process be fair and equitable.  That would  be ensured by the legislation.  Each year, following broad approval of programmes and projects for funding, applications would be invited.  After evaluation of such applications by or on behalf of public bodies, he would approve a range of projects and measures.  A statement with details of approvals would be laid before the Oireachtas, with a list of approved measures and projects and the amounts, within one month.  The Bill maintained the separate recording of dormant accounts through the votes of the different departments, so that they could be tracked across departments with enhanced transparency and accountability.

 

Section 5 provided for the dissolution of the Dormant Accounts Board.  Sections 43a and 44 provided for the minister to publish an invitation to apply, with the criteria, the application procedure, deadline and for applications to be assessed by or for the minister.  Recommendations would be submitted to the relevant minister and then the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for approval.  

 

 

Minister commended for reducing quangos

Senator Cait Keane (FG, labour) spoke of how the functions of the board were largely historical and its role had been substantially reduced.  ‘That is very welcome’.  The fund had decreased from around €200m in 2003 to under €50m now.  Senator Maurice Cummins (FG, Labour) commended the cuts made in the minister’s department.  43% of the quangos in his department had been abolished or amalgamated.  This example should be followed by other ministers in government.  

 

David Cullinane (SF, labour) stressed the importance of the minister not cutting funding for community development projects.  He had been member of a management committee of a community development project in Waterford.  The minister would be aware that these projects had been put under the control of a partnership, the boards of management were now gone and this was perceived as a hollowing out of genuine community development.  There was very genuine concern about its funding and most projects operated on a shoestring basis.  Senator Diarmuid Wilson (FF, administrative) asked what role would Pobal have in the new arrangements.

 

Replying to the debate, the minister, Phil Hogan, told senators that he had no plans other than to continue with Pobal as the source of administration of funds.  Modest annual savings, currently of €120,000 would come from the dissolution of the board but administration costs associated with processing applications would be significantly greater. 

> Committee stage: Seanad Eireann, Debates, 20th October 2011, 977-8.