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 Header Item Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (Continued)
 Header Item Dormant Accounts Fund

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny] Why is everything left over being gathered up with the notion that the Department of Rural and Community Development will look after it? I just wonder about that.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring It might have been Deputy Martin Kenny and others who stated we would never open the fund.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny I never said that.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring I also heard complaints that we would not allocate the money and then I heard complaints that it would never happen. It happened. Let us be honest and fair about it. There are 18 shovel-ready projects. Shovel-ready status is one of the key elements of the programme. There are many projects which would not have been able to advance but for the funding put in place. Some of the other schemes to which the Deputy referred do not have the level of grant necessary to allow the relevant work to proceed. I am delighted with the scheme and these 18 good projects. These are projects that are going to happen. The Deputy asked about category 2 and I will give him a straight answer. I intend to have the rest of category 1 and category 2 completed early in February. I could do one in January, but I do not want to do that. I want to do the two schemes and get the funding. As stated earlier, I will open the scheme for new applications again early in the new year.

Deputy Martin Heydon: Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon I thank the Minister for the information outlined on those issues. The rural regeneration and development fund is crucial. While I am disappointed that my local authority of Kildare County Council did not have projects at the shovel-ready stage, I am keen to ensure our very strong applications under category 2 will be considered. We have a number of plans to redevelop town squares and we also have public realm plans. In Athy, for example, we have the town centre, the site of the former Dominican church, Emily Square and Athy enterprise centre. In Kildare town, we have Cherry Avenue, which involves a plan for a multifunctional town park, and other projects to improve local infrastructure. There are also public realm projects in Kilcullen, Rathangan, Monasterevin and Robertstown. Each of those projects, some of which the Minister visited with me, will give local communities a shot in the arm. A particularly important one, however, is a plan involving close collaboration with the Department of Defence. We are seeking to leverage all aspects of State involvement and develop a serious management plan for the Curragh plain, a 5,000 acre outwash plain of national significance and great local significance to the people of Kildare who use it for a variety of reasons, including recreation and tourism purposes. We need a co-ordinated plan and I am delighted that Kildare County Council and the Department of Defence are working together as closely as they are. These are the kinds of project we need to see funded early in the new year.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring The Deputy is quite correct. The great thing about this scheme is that any State agency or local authority working with community groups can make an application. There are a number of ways to get matching funding. Údarás, local authorities and other State agencies, including the Western Development Commission and LEADER companies, have come in. As Minister, the major complaint I have heard was touched on by Deputy Heydon. It relates to groups getting projects ready. They have often simply lacked the funding necessary to make a plan and the seed funding required to get schemes ready. That is why we created category 2. It provides the seed funding to allow groups to get their applications ready. They were not ready for the first phase, but they will be ready for the next. We are going through and evaluating the projects which have not been dealt with yet and determining which ones can be shovel-ready for next year. We hope to make the announcement in early February. I could have done one in January and the other in February, but I want to do them together. I want to do categories 1 and 2 because I want to get the scheme open again for next year. That is because the important thing about the scheme will be to continue it over the years ahead.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister knows my normal concern. He has let out €24 million and he has to have €55 million spent by the end of 2019. He tells the House that he will let another tranche of money out in February, but he knows from his experience of the LEADER programme that allocating the money out does not mean it will be spent quickly. Is the Minister talking about allocating another €70 million or €80 million given my estimate that he would have to have €100 million approved at the end of February to get a spend of €55 million by the end of next year? That is the reality. Are these the kind of figures he is talking about letting out at the end of February? If not, he is going to underspend again.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring To be fair, it is one of the things I am looking at. The Deputy is correct. As with the town and village scheme or the outdoor recreation scheme, if one does not spend in advance, one will have a difficulty. Category 2 will provide seed funding for projects and I expect a lot of it will be drawn down quickly. Some of the schemes are shovel-ready. Those behind one €4 million project have told me they expect it to be completed by September of next year. I am hopeful that people are as good as their word. The project is shovel-ready and an effort will be made to ensure that work will start and projects will be completed by the end of the year. I take the Deputy's point. It is something I am considering. He is correct, given the outdoor recreation scheme, that we need to push on with further schemes and greater spend than perhaps I should do and make the allocations. It is as simple as that and I do not disagree with what the Deputy says.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív From his experience with LEADER, does the Minister agree that he will need to have approved €100 million between category 1 and 2 by the end of February if he is to hit his target of spending €55 million by the end of next year? Anything less will leave him short at the end of next year and we will end up having the same debate about money going back to the Exchequer.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring While I cannot commit to that, I can commit to ensuring that there will be a substantial spend. I have to see what projects are actually shovel-ready. My problem is that they must be ready to go. Category 2 will be an easier scheme because it is seed funding. People thought the scheme would not happen but it did and it is a good one. The Deputy should be happy that his constituency did quite well in relation to a project which would never have been able to get funding but for the scheme. It would never have been able to get the grant aid it needed. It is a scheme that creates jobs in the Gaeltacht in the Deputy's constituency. I am pleased that project came through because it is a very good one.

Dormant Accounts Fund

 43. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development Information on Michael Ring Zoom on Michael Ring if the interdepartmental group pursuant to recommendation 7 of a report (details supplied) has been established; the number of times it has met since its establishment; the membership of the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51856/18]

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Has the interdepartmental group been established? If so, how many times has it met? Who are its members? This arises from the review established by the Minister's Department which reported in July 2018. The review was further to a chapter of the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which came before the Committee of Public Accounts in February and identified significant underspending and serious problems. Is a copy of the reply available?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher No. Only replies to Topical Issues are available. The reply will be available later.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That makes matters difficult.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney The review of the Dormant Accounts Fund disbursement scheme, which was published in July 2018, set out 15 recommendations aimed at improving the management and administration of current and future disbursement schemes.

One of the recommendations was to establish an interdepartmental group for the Dormant Accounts Fund to meet on a six-monthly basis. The stated purpose of the group is to inform and monitor progress in the implementation of disbursement schemes and subsequent action plans and to ensure that up-to-date co-ordinated information is maintained.

The interdepartmental group has been established and it met for the first time on Thursday, 25 October 2018.

The group is chaired by my Department and membership consists of those Departments making use of dormant accounts funding. These include the Departments of Justice and Equality, Transport, Tourism and Sport, Health, Children and Youth Affairs and Education and Skills. Given its role in the operation of the fund, membership also includes the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Pobal is also represented in the membership of the group due to its administration of some measures on behalf of Departments and with a view to having it act as a link to the community groups which often utilise dormant accounts moneys.

I am informed that the first meeting of the group covered a range of issues, in particular information management and the development of guidance documents around how the fund should operate. The next meeting of the group is planned for April 2019 which will allow the group to inform the preparation of the 2019 dormant accounts action plan. This group will play an important role in supporting the implementation of the recommendations in the review and ensuring that the available funds are utilised for measures targeting disadvantage.

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