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Local Development Companies Oppose Government Plans

One of Ireland’s largest local development companies has hit out at Government plans to give local authorities control of community-led programmes, such as LEADER. Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) has joined with 49 other similar companies throughout Ireland in expressing their opposition to Minister Phil Hogan’s proposed local government reforms, which would see new County Council-led bodies replace Local Development Companies as the organisations responsible for LEADER and other local development programmes.

The company also rejected what it described as “efforts by the Minister to discredit the contribution made by local development companies and their staff across the country.” CLDC is celebrating 21 years of community led development in Co. Clare at a showcase event in Ennis this evening that is expected to attract up to 1,000 community and business people from around the county and beyond. Amongst the keynote speakers will be sociologist Fr. Harry Bohan, former Munster, Ireland and Lions rugby player Keith Wood, and Dr. Brendan O’Keeffe, a Rural Development and Local Governance Research Associate at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

Figures released today show that almost 1200 local businesses and community projects have benefited from community-led development funding, totalling €86.5 million since the first LEADER contract was awarded in Clare in 1992.

During this time, 1,550 jobs have been created or sustained and training provided to 3,000 people in County Clare. Currently the company employs 68 people on a wide range of programmes, including LEADER, Local Community Development Programme, Rural Recreation Local Training Initiatives and community work schemes. In 2013, the company will be responsible for the employment of a further 312 people on community work placement schemes including, Community Employment, the Rural Social Scheme and Tús.

“What Minister Hogan wants to do is discard community-led development and replace it with the State. Our organisation has 21 years experience of bottom-up development, a huge voluntary input, strong relationships with communities and people on the ground, and provides better value for money,” commented Doirin Graham, CEO of CLDC.

She added: “There is no credible justification for this change other than a grab for the resources of LEADER. Minister Hogan has failed to back up his contention that a local authority-led model will deliver a better service to the public and will save money. In stark contrast, the European Commission and the OECD have praised Ireland’s local development organisations strongly for their ability to deliver EU supports and policies on the ground. CLDC and the 49 other Local Development Companies around the country will fight the Minister’s proposal tooth and nail.”

CLDC Chairman and community representative, Stephen Walsh explained that a lack of support at local, national and international level for Minister Hogan’s plans suggested that “a rethink is required”.

“The European Commission and the European Court of Auditors have each published their opinion that community led local development should not be dominated by local authorities. Their evaluation of local development across Europe shows conclusively that local development programmes dominated by local authorities have performed poorly. The bottom-up community led approach of CLDC, has generated a diversity of projects and a level of local ownership that could not happen through the top-down approach of a statutory body,” he said.

Mr. Walsh continued: “At national level, there has been a groundswell of support for community-led organisations from rural people and communities, with a very low level of support for the Minister’s proposals coming from TDs and Senators. The Members of Clare County Council have strongly supported CLDC and have called on the Minister to leave LEADER and other local development programmes in the hands of the county’s community-led organisation.”

For more on today’s CLDC Conference in Ennis visit www.cldc.ie.

Source: HortiTrends News Room