Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Council role probed for LEADER programmes

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Options are currently being explored to bring LEADER and other community development programmes under greater local government control, the Department of the Environment has confirmed.

This process is being undertaken in parallel with the Department of the Environment's overall local government reform agenda and could result in local development companies coming under the control of county councils.

A spokesman said the process was being managed directly by the Department's own staff but would later be guided by a high-level alignment steering committee to be appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan.

However, Mr Hogan has insisted that the process of bringing the development companies under local authority control would not be rushed.

In an interview with the Department's in-house magazine Changing Ireland, Mr Hogan warned that the process could be detrimental to local development projects if it were "embarked upon in haste".

"I want to align it (local development) more with local government, I do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's a lot of good work being done," Mr Hogan said.

Mr Hogan also indicated that he will not transfer the local and community development programme's functions over fully to local authorities.

"Our aim is to establish greater links with local government and ensure more efficient and cost effective ways to deliver these programmes," Mr Hogan said. "Equally, local government has to step up to the plate in relation to embracing the community sector which they haven't done in the past."

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The changes have met with a mixed reaction.

"Some CEOs and staff of LEADER companies would be delighted to come under the control of local authorities as it could lead to the permanent pensionable job," one community development official said.

In contrast, others are implacably opposed to it as they believe that the 'bottom up' nature of the organisations, their autonomy and the culture of the LEADER and local development operations would be compromised.

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