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Healy-Rae challenges alignment

Michael Healy-Rae (ind, Kerry S) raised, during topical debates, the alignment report on local government and development published by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th November 2012, 299-302).  This was the third attempt, he said, by civil servants to move the development and delivery of local services and programmes away from the voluntary and community sector.  No local development people, nor, more importantly volunteer members of the boards were on the steering committee that completed the report and he wondered how many of them volunteered in their communities.

 

Responding, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan told him that local authority staff would assume greater responsibility for the oversight and coordination of local and community development activity, freeing up local development bodies and their staff to concentrate on frontline service delivery.  

 

According to Michael Healy-Rae, the retention of their autonomy from councils or any state bodies in facilitating communities to articulate their concerns was imperative.  There appeared to be the suggestion that government or civil servants wanted local development entities to do the difficult work with communities, the night work and the donkey work, while funding would go to the local authorities or the county managers:

‘The most devastating element of the proposals suggests that the bottom-up approach will be dismantled.  Volunteers will be disenfranchised, disempowered, disengaged, disillusioned, disgusted and would most certainly walk.  …The approach seems to be that local government and the local authority are broken, so we must fix local development’.

 

The minister told him that Putting people first strengthened and refocussed the role of local government toward economic, social and community development locally.  It was the government’s view that local authorities will have a central role in the oversight of local and community development planning.  The alignment steering group recognized the importance of retaining the bottom-up approach, as he did.  There was no intention to remove that approach to community development.  But we had to look at the administrative costs of the various groups, some being 35% of all the funding going into them, which was sustainable no longer.  He wanted to see those costs devoted to frontline services rather than an expensive bureaucracy.  Substantial public funding was being spent on local and community development programmes and they were not always sufficiently joined up to allow the most efficient and effective delivery of services.  Rural development structures would continue and the voluntary and community sector would continue to play an important role in EU programmes, but they will be more aligned with local government in doing so and more coordinated in their approach.  The bottom-up approach will continue.  Michael Healy-Rae interjected: ‘they will be consumed by the local authorities’.

> Single company for local and community development in South Dublin, aligning Dodder Valley and CPLN partnership: Dail Eireann, Debates, 29th November 2012, 164.