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Written Answers. - Departmental Expenditure.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 80. Mr. R. Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the way in which the CLÁR programme will operate in 2003 in view of his Department's cutbacks of 25% in the budget for the CLÁR programme for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24515/02]

 82. Mr. Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  when he expects to receive the analysis commissioned from the national institute for regional and spatial analysis at Maynooth which is required to assist in the review of CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24466/02]

 122. Mr. Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the total projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24465/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 82 and 122 together.

I launched the CLÁR Programme, Ceantair Laga Árd-Riachtanais, a targeted investment programme in rural areas, on 5 October 2001.

The 16 areas selected are those which have suffered the greatest depopulation since 1926 – with the exception of the Cooley peninsula, which has been included based on the serious difficulties caused for that area by the foot and mouth disease. The average population loss in all these areas is 50% and the total population that will benefit from the programme is 284,000.

The CLÁR programme will fast-track NDP spending in the selected areas. The priorities identified in the selected areas are being dealt with in the following measures: non-national roads, class 111 roads, L.I.S. roads, group water schemes, group sewerage schemes, small public water schemes, urban enhancement scheme, village enhancement scheme, bi-lingual signage scheme, sports capital grant scheme, major and minor capital health projects, telecommunications, islands, 3 – phase electricity for small industries, Gaeltacht top-ups for sports and com[978] munity facilities, and community initiatives of a capital nature.

To date, I have committed over €22 million to these measures, which are already under way or will commence in 2003. All of these measures have been agreed with the lead Departments or State agencies, as appropriate. Other measures may be introduced later, depending on needs identified.

Although the provision for CLÁR programme is reduced from the 2002 allocation, I expect that to be able to complete a comprehensive work programme in 2003. CLÁR funds act as a lever to elicit funds from other sources. The 2003 CLÁR allocation will be sufficient to continue this leverage to sustain an effective programme.

An Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment for annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census results. The national institute for regional and spatial analysis at NUI, Maynooth, has recently completed its analysis of the 2002 population census and my Department is examining the results in the context of the review of the areas in the CLÁR programme.

 81. Ms O. Mitchell Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the way in which his Department will function in 2003 in view of the overall cutback of 17% in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24528/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Next year will represent the first full year of operation of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and I am very much looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. I am also fully confident that my Department will function very successfully and that it will make a significant contribution to Irish life.

The Estimates process presented me with the opportunity to critically examine my Department's collective spending programmes, which were previously spread around the Votes of various Departments. This was a useful exercise in the effort to set clear priorities though, of course, some difficult decisions have to be made. However, overall I am satisfied that the allocations announced for my Department are generally close to the projected actual expenditure for 2002.

I also point out that direct comparisons with the 2002 allocations – particularly in relation to the administrative budget – are misleading given that the published administration costs for 2002 refer to the former Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands which had significantly more staff and centres of operation than the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

I wish to deal with some of the main operational areas of my Department in 2003, com[979] mencing with An Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht. I am confident that the 2003 allocations to Gaeltacht schemes – na scéimeanna feabhsúcháin, cultúrtha agus sóisialta, agus tithe Gaeltachta – will be sufficient to meet expected demand. In the case of Udarás na Gaeltachta, while its current allocation has been increased, there is a reduction on its capital. However, the capital allocation is adequate to meet the needs for industrial grants and the planned building programme, especially in the light of the likely level of demand and the potential own resources of An tÚdarás. Furthermore, the allocation to na hoileáin has been increased by 9% for 2003.

With regard to community affairs, there will be some reduction in 2003 for both the community and voluntary service and local development and social inclusion measure. The allocation will be adequate to meet existing commitments, but the overall pace of expansion of the community development support programme will be affected. On the local development side, Area Development Management Limited is actively working with the local partnerships with a view to minimising the impact of the reductions on the provision of services next year.

With responsibility for both community and local development now in the one Department, streamlining can take place to ensure more efficient delivery of services and better value for money. In the longer term this will ensure enhanced and more efficiently delivered services to those most in need of assistance.

I recognised the need to prioritise funding in certain cases – an example being the drugs initiative, for which an increase of 16% in funding has been provided in 2003. This shows my continued commitment to tackling the drugs problem and the willingness, even in times of financial pressure, to prioritise resources for this very important task.

Under rural affairs, the allocation to the western investment fund simply reflects the likely expenditure next year. Also, in the course of making hard decisions on future priorities, I have decided to wind-down the CÁIT programme. However, I will be looking at other ways of implementing improved access to IT for those in disadvantaged areas.

With regard to the rural development NDP programme, Leader, and the rural development measures under INTERREG and PEACE, these programmes are generally set to operate in a long time frame to 2006 and prudent management should ensure that the delivery can largely be maintained. It is important that confidence in the capacity of programmes to deliver remains strong in communities and my Department is committed to ensuring and strengthening confidence in the rural areas in 2003 and beyond.

Despite the reduced allocation, a comprehensive work programme will still be undertaken under CLÁR in 2003. The focus will move away from investment on non-national roads and [980] smaller roads generally. I intend to complete a definitive work plan under the various measures of the programme encompassing water-sewerage, capital health, community projects and telecommunication projects.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 80.

 83. Mr. Crawford Information on Seymour Crawford Zoom on Seymour Crawford  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the way in which he can justify a cut of 16% in grants for community and voluntary services at the same time as his colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is withdrawing over 5,000 workers from community employment schemes; if he accepts that these cuts will have a major effect on the aged and disabled, especially in isolated rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24345/02]

 85. Mr. J. Bruton Information on John Bruton Zoom on John Bruton  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the criteria which apply to applicants in view of the cutbacks of 16% in his Department's budget for 2003 for community and voluntary service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24514/02]

 124. Mr. Gogarty Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the levels of support his Department will offer community development projects in 2003; and the way in which these supports differ from those given in 2002. [24478/02]

 127. Mr. Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the details of his proposed review of community development programmes in view of the budget cutback in his Department of 16% for grants for community and voluntary service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24517/02]

 129. Mr. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  the reason for the cut in the 2003 estimate for his Department of 16% in the allocation for grants for community and voluntary service; the specific areas in which the cuts will take place; the implications for community and voluntary service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24444/02]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 85, 124, 127 and 129 together.

This Department operates a range of grant schemes and community development support programmes which concentrate, inter alia, on a wide range of support for local self-help groups, community development, a scheme of community support for older people, and on the provision of seed money to enable community groups to pilot initiatives identified as meeting new and emerging community needs. In addition, the White Paper on Supporting Voluntary Activity in 2000 [981] provided for new schemes of support for federations, networks and umbrella bodies and training projects in the community and voluntary sector.

Some €29,538 million was allocated in the Estimates to community and voluntary services in 2003. This allocation will enable my Department to meet its current core commitments to existing community development projects in 2003. In relation to the renewal of existing contracts, the position is that all groups whose contracts are due to expire at the end of 2002 are being offered interim funding for January and February and a one year contract thereafter subject to satisfactory progress over the previous period and receipt of a one year workplan. Given the tighter economic situation, it is necessary to refocus resources and identify priorities for the continued funding of programmes which benefit local communities. In that context, the intervening period will be used to review optimal coherence across the range of my Department's schemes.

Overall, it is not envisaged that the reduction in funding will negatively impact on the work carried out by community development projects, including those groups which focus on the aged or the disabled. The reduced allocation may, however, mean that we are not in a position to progress the expansion of the community development programme at the same pace as we have done in previous years. Any further expansion, will have to take account of our existing commitments and the available resources.

The community employment scheme comes within the responsibilities of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

I am committed to undertaking a review of the programmes and activities which come within the remit of my Department, with a view to achieving optimal coherence across the various schemes. While there are no immediate plans to change the criteria of the CDP scheme, the scope of the review may extend to the structure and operation of the scheme and its criteria.

In relation to the two schemes arising from the White Paper, funding will be available for these schemes but at a reduced level. Funding for research projects arising from the White Paper is suspended for 2003. Also, provision for the scheme of community support for older people will continue, but at a reduced level, reflecting decreasing demand.


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