Dr Caoimhin MacAoidh, CEO of Donegal Local Development Company, has warned that government proposals for local government reform will put vital services to communities in Donegal and nationally at risk and will threaten the future for local development companies.
The DLDC boss says the plans could destroy community-led development in Donegal and would 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
Dr MacAoidh was speaking following an event in Dublin organised by the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN), the representative body for Ireland’s 50 local development companies.
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.
Dr MacAoidh, said the proposals could “potentially wipe out 20 years of experience in the planning and delivery of local development programmes”.
He added: “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.
Dr MacAoidh stated: “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.
“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.”
The DLDC CEO added: “At the event in Dublin last week, we explained to the Co. Donegal 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.”
The event was attended by representatives from Donegal Local Development Company, Inishowen Development Partnership and Comhar na nOilean.
Politicians in attendance from Donegal included: Padraig MacLochlainn TD, Charlie McConalogue TD, Joe McHugh TD, Pearse Doherty TD, Thomas Pringle TD and Senator Jimmy Harte. At the Dublin event, they received briefings from Jim Slevin, Chair, Donegal Local Development Company; Caoimhin MacAoidh, CEO, Donegal Local Development Company; Andrew Ward, CEO, Inishowen Development Partnership; Majella ni Criochain, CEO, Comhar na nOilean; John Walsh, Chair, Comhar na nOilean; and Seamus O’Cnaimhsi, Board member, Comhar na nOilean.
Dr MacAoidh 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.
An ILDN survey conducted last year showed that, in 2011, local development companies in Donegal supported:
· 90 people into employment.
· 186 people into self-employment.
· 583 people into education or training.
· 548 people into labour market programmes.