|Minister Phil Hogan (FG)|
The Local and Community Development Programme is, Hogan said, “a key social inclusion intervention” in tackling poverty and exclusion through partnership between the government and disadvantaged communities.
He said that it was essential to harness the “strengths and experiences of both the local government and the local development sectors.” and to ensure that “the best elements of both are retained in any revised local governance arrangements.” Hogan praised local development companies, who he described as having “a proven track record when it comes to delivering services for their communities.”
At the same time he pointed out how “it is inherently inefficient and ineffective to have local governance arrangements that perpetuate the funding of multiple local development agencies from a significant number of Departments and State agencies for similar, complementary or overlapping objectives.”
He referred to the new steering group, which he has given a broad remit to, that was established to consider how services can be streamlined, and to draft a “roadmap for delivering simplified, cost-effective and efficient services” and for a closer “alignment”. “The sheer scale and complexity of the current structures is still daunting,“ he commented, saying he intended, as his predecessor did, to get rid of duplication and overlaps in administration.
He noted the non-for-profit sectors importance to the economy – that it employs 100,000 people, “equivalent to the numbers employed in agriculture.” He also praised the work of unpaid volunteers.
Sinn Fein was only allowed one minute of speaking time and in his brief few words Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (SF) described the debate as a “back-slapping exercise.” He said: “The community and voluntary sector which I am in contact with is in crisis, because of the cutbacks in funding that have happened under the previous Administration and which are being followed through by this Administration.” He believed that services can be delivered more effectively by a standalone local community organisation rather than by local government.
Senator Michael Mullins (FG) asked Minister Hogan whether people employed in local development companies “will become employees of the local authority?”
The Minister replied the steering group would look at how best to realign the two. Later in the debate, Hogan indicated that CE schemes may move under local authority control. “We are in discussions with the trade union movement and with local government and the Department of Social Protection,” he said, “to roll out in 2012 an expansion of that programme through local government.”