My Leaders Question today to The Minister for Energy, Communications & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte
Recently, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government conducted an interim review on the local community development programme. It found it exceeded its targets in areas of high priority for Government, namely, education, training and employment.
Over the years a vast range of experience, skills and insight has been built up. It has led to people from and living in communities addressing the problems in their communities and being able to solve them. It is all part of participatory democracy. It is an area which has seen cuts of 38% to date. There is a professional relationship with Pobal when it comes to transparency, oversight and tracking outcomes and that overall aim to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership has been progressing.
The Minister knows from his community what disadvantage is like and he knows what community programmes have done to tackle disadvantage and to give hope and provide motivation. I acknowledge the big role he played in the establishment of the drugs task forces. What is now happening is that the programme and projects are being put out to public tender and to a procurement process. That could mean all the experience, insight and knowledge might be lost and, conceivably, a company could bid and win a contract for community development without having set foot in the community or having a base there. There is no guarantee that current services will continue. We do not know what will happen the infrastructure or employees. My question is why Ireland is the only country in the European Union that has decided to privatise community development?
I wish to focus on two groups in particular, one of which is the group in the north inner city, which is at a particular disadvantage because it does not have a partnership. A total of 16 of the projects have come together in a loose alliance and they are very much afraid of what the process will do to them. The other group of concern is island communities because as far as they are concerned the change will completely destroy what they have achieved. Currently, funding goes directly to the islanders and to the group in the north inner city and funding will now go from the communities which means all those years of working could be totally undermined by the new process. The projects are being tendered to for-profit companies. Up to now that has not been the ethos of community development groups. The buzzword now is social inclusion and a community activation programme but it does not address the needs of the communities involved.
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