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TDs and senators from Cork turned out in force for an event in Dublin last week, attended by representatives from South East Cork Area Development, Avondhu Blackwater Partnership Ltd, IRD Duhallow, Ballyhoura Development Ltd, Cork City Partnership, West Cork Development Partnership and Comhar na nOilean. The event, which took place on Wednesday, 23rd January, was organised by the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN), the representative body for Ireland’s 50 local development companies including the aforementioned.
The aim of the ILDN event was to highlight concerns amongst local development companies about how proposed local government reforms could impact negatively on community-led local development. According to the ILDN, the reforms proposed in the ‘Putting People First’ report published recently by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, place up to 2,000 jobs at risk in local development companies and sideline the community and voluntary sector.
John Walsh, acting chairperson of the ILDN, said: “We organised this event in Dublin to demonstrate to national politicians how concerned we are about the local government reform proposals. We were delighted with the political response to the event. Almost 150 TDs and Senators attended, and generally, politicians were very willing to listen to our concerns and to offer us support.”
At the Dublin event, politicians received briefings from Valerie Murphy and Sean Hegarty (CEO and Chair respectively) Avondhu Blackwater Partnership; Anne Barry, Avondhu Blackwater Partnership; John Walsh and Carmel Fox (Chair and CEO respectively) Ballyhoura Development Ltd; Jack Walsh, Noel Dillon and Triona Murphy of IRD Duhallow and Ryan Howard, CEO, South East Cork Area Development among others.
Speaking in the aftermath of the event, Sean Hegarty, Chair Avondhu-Blackwater Partnership said: “The Government’s proposals for local government reform put vital services to communities at risk and seriously threaten the future of local development companies. These proposals could potentially wipe out 20 years of experience in the planning and delivery of local development programmes.
“Our sector currently employs over 2,000 people and delivers a range of labour market, enterprise and anti-poverty programmes in a way that is cost-effective and delivers value for money. If the local government reforms go ahead, our model of community-led local development will be destroyed; there will be job losses within local development companies; and local development companies will be forced to close”
Under the local government reform proposals, new structures known as Socio-Economic Committees, would manage and disburse all local development funding, including future rounds of the LEADER and Local and Community Development Programmes, both of which are currently administered by local development companies. The new Committees would be led and administered by local authorities.
“Transferring the management of LEADER and the Local and Community Development Programme to the new Socio-Economic Committees would leave local development companies without any core funding,” Sean hegarty continued.
“This reform would basically result in decision-making and funding being removed from community-led bodies with a proven track record of success, and placed in the hands of local authorities.
“This makes absolutely no sense: the current system of local development in Ireland is viewed as a model of best practice at European level. The European Court of Auditors, for example, has strongly criticised the excessive involvement of local authorities in the implementation of LEADER in other countries, so it is unlikely the changes being proposed by the Government would be welcomed at European level.
“At the event in Dublin last week, we explained to the Co Cork politicians who attended how the local government reforms will destroy community-led local development if they go ahead. The Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government has agreed to discuss our concerns with us over the coming weeks, which is a move we welcome. In the meantime, we will maintain ongoing contact with our local TDs and Senators in relation to this issue.”
An ILDN survey conducted last year showed that, in 2011, local development companies in Cork supported:
· 944 people into employment.
· 333 people into self-employment.
· 2,893 people into education or training.
· 965 people into labour market programmes.
Sean Hegarty said the ILDN and local development companies throughout Ireland will continue their campaign over the coming weeks to highlight to politicians and policymakers the serious repercussions for community-led local development if the proposed local government reforms go ahead. Further information about the campaign is available at: www.ildn.ie.
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