Local Development Companies who administer LEADER funding and other local development programmes such as the Rural Social Scheme have expressed their concern over aspects of the recently announced Local Government reform document which they feel will threaten their autonomy and endanger the ‘bottom-up’ development model that they say has delivered for local communities over the past twenty years .
Under the ‘Putting People First’ document introduced by the Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government, it is proposed to change local development structures and bring about closer alignment with local authority structures.
The Irish Local Development Network (ILDN), which represents local development companies in Ireland, is critical of these plans and feel they will not they will not deliver improved outcomes for communities as they ‘endanger the bottom-up economic, social and community development model’.
The ILDN say the EU Commission has acknowledged that the Irish local and rural development model is one of the best in Eusrope in channelling millions of euros of funding each year for local communities and small rural enterprises and feel there is no sense to threaten to demolish these structures.
There are two Local Development Companies in Mayo - Mayo North East LEADER Partnership and South West Mayo Development Company - which administer LEADER funding throughout the county.
Gerry O’Neill, the CEO of South West Mayo, explained that while there are many aspects of the document which they support, they have concerns particularly regarding the need to continue a bottom-up economic model.
The South West Mayo office is based in Newport and Mr O’Neill said they were anxious to protect their approach to dealing with people from the ground up. He said that Local Development Company boards are represented by local community representatives and social partners, as well as the local authority and the statutory sector, and feels those structures are very important to hold onto.
“The Minister’s view of how development work should be done at county and local level ignores the evidence of 20 years of successful work in LEADER in Ireland. The principle is that work is done at local level and local people are involved in the decision making process. This [document] flies in the face of that,” Mr O’Neill told The Mayo News.
He said the document proposes establishing a Socio Economic Committee in each local authority area to work with the development companies which he feels may result in the loss of community involvement and result in another layer of bureaucracy, and will not result in greater efficiency or savings.
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