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Leader Programmes Funding (Continued)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen] I thank the Minister of State for what appears to be a concise answer. I accept his statement that there is no proposal to amalgamate but rather to align them. I am sure that will consist of a sharing of facilities and administrative staff. If that is the case, will it have a knock-on effect on existing administrative staff who are employed by these agencies? Can the Minister of State categorically say that funding that has heretofore been given to these agencies for distribution among the communities they serve and represent will be ring-fenced?

The Minister of State says he has spoken to some of the agencies' representatives. I have had numerous contacts with different agencies, Leader groups and development companies in recent weeks. I agree with the concept but will this process be negotiated to achieve the end result rather than being imposed? No success can be gained by imposition and a lack of negotiation in arriving at a solution one wants to see.

Can the Minister of State confirm that all funding for these programmes will be ring-fenced and can be expected to continue as heretofore? Will administrative staff be shared and, if so, will it mean a loss of jobs in those agencies? Is there a timeframe for the negotiations, when will they progress and when are they likely to conclude?

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The report refers to new synergies between local government and development agencies. As regards sharing facilities, if there is space in a local authority office, why should a development agency not go in there, if it is free from its lease? It makes sense to reduce costs, including electricity. The key issue is that it will be recommended, where possible, and it is very practical in that more money will go to the front line for community projects. According to the review group, of the €135 million involved in the four main programmes, €35 million was spent on administration and overheads. There is no issue about people keeping their jobs, but we will get new synergies and will reduce our costs.

Like the Deputy, I have met people from the network. Their views are clear, as is the Government's view. It will remain a bottom-up approach and they will make a contribution, especially at the socioeconomic committees in local authorities, to be established by legislation. Their views will be very important and they will have a dedicated role to perform.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen Is there a timescale for whatever negotiations or discussions take place to satisfy these agencies? Such a timescale would allow the Minister of State to agree a means by which this can take place seamlessly. It would be to their satisfaction as well as the Government's and, ultimately, to the satisfaction of those whom they represent and whose funding the Government targets in various areas. That is all I am asking. There should be an arrangement and an understanding that this can be done in partnership.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The local development network is an important part of the process and pays a significant local and national contribution. The Minister will establish an implementation group shortly and the network will be part of that. This is to make better use of the money we have through new synergies and directing money to the front line. I can assure the Deputy that nobody is dictating the pace. It will be a bottom-up approach. The commitment and contribution that development agencies currently give will continue in the new socioeconomic committees. This will involve other stakeholders, including public private partnerships, local authority members and voluntary groups, in order that the good work will continue into the future.

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