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LCDP: Local government Bill concludes second stage

Debate concluded on the Local government Bill, 2013, which provides inter alia for the alignment of the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP) with local government (Dail Eireann, Debates, 5th November 2013, 89,91; 13th November, 772-6; 14th November 27-32, 59-107).  Joe Carey (FG, Clare) told the Dail that the LEADER programme had in the main served rural Ireland well for the past 25 years and he would not like their experience or abilities to be lost or subsumed.  These groups emerged from the voluntary sector and this ethos was still strong in their board structure.

 

Ciara Conway (Lab, Waterford) spoke of the on-going difficulties with community workers working in LEADER and partnerships which are to be brought under the local authority and he urged ministers to engage with them to find a solution.  The people who worked in them were delivering innovative, community-based services.  Likewise, Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry N) expressed concern that LEADER companies would lose the independence that had been an essential ingredient of their success.  At best they will have service level agreements or even worse.  Will they have to tender with the private sector?

 

Dan Neville (FG, Limerick) took the view that community development was a small section of the work of the local authorities, but this would now be enhanced and allow for a varied level of community involvement and experience.  Over the years, power had been removed to various unelected bodies, which did good work but were not accountable to the people.  Michael Creed (FG, Cork NW) described as a weakness the lack of interaction between LEADER and partnership groups and the local authorities and public accountability.  They were not subject to Freedom of Information legislation: substantial public funds were expended by them and administrative costs needed to be examined.  While we should acknowledge what they had achieved, less funds are available, resources are finite and administrative overheads must be reduced.  There should be fewer bodies and they should come under the local authorities and that should not threaten anybody.  John Browne (FF, Wexford) said that he had been told by the minister that LEADER companies, while they would be based in the local authorities, would not actually form part of those authorities.  Those employed in LEADER will remain on contract: they will not become local authority workers.  Maybe the minister would clear that up.

 

Asked separately by Maureen O’Sullivan (ind, Dublin C) about the future of the programme, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan told her that it was intended that the LCDP be implemented in future by local community development committees, but a number of options for local delivery were being considered and he expected to receive recommendations in the near future from  the alignment working group (Dail Eireann, Debates, 13th November 2013, 853-4).  Specifically dealing with the situation in Dublin, his department and Pobal would identify the best approach for programme implementation and coordination once the new structures were fully operational.