THE ceding of LEADER funds from local development groups to county council-led socio-economic committees moved a step closer last week.
Part of the local government reform programme initiated by Minister Phil Hogan would see millions of euro in EU LEADER funds move from the control of groups such as IRD Duhallow and Avondhu Blackwater Partnership to a series of socio-economic committees (SECs), led by the county council.
An ILDN (Irish Local Development Network) executive-led delegation met with Minister Hogan on Monday of last week, where the single item on the agenda was the controversial SEC proposal. Subsequently, the minister agreed to proceed on the following basis: 1. The department will work with ILDN to clarify and agree the role and function of the SECs. 2. When agreement is reached, ILDN will identify their two representatives to sit on an implementation working group.
It also emerged from the meeting that some 'pilot SECs' are envisaged ahead of full implementation of the plans. However, the broad thrust was that the SECs will come into being, with the future role of local development groups remaining unclear.
This despite a strong turn-out of Cork TDs and senators two days later, Wednesday, to a meeting attended by all of Cork's local development groups, which heard that up to 2,000 jobs are at risk in local development companies because of the SEC plan.
"The government's proposals for local government reform put vital services to communities at risk and seriously threaten the future of local development companies," said Ryan Howard, CEO of South East Cork Area Development (SECAD). "These proposals could potentially wipe out 20 years of experience in the planning and delivery of local development programmes.
"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."
"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."
However, given the agreements at the meeting with Minister Hogan, it seems the SEC plan is going ahead, to the detriment of local development groups.