IFA Rural Development Chairperson, Flor McCarthy, has said that the alignment proposal for the more effective implementation of Local Government will impact negatively on community led local development programmes such as Leader.
Speaking following a meeting with Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government Officials in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, Mr McCarthy said the move to set up Socio-Economic Committees (SECs) in each local authority area, is a retrograde step. He was especially critical of any decision to give these SECs control of the key financing mechanisms.
Mr McCarthy said the value of community and local voluntary input into local development would be lost with such a move.
“Local Authorities have no record of local development and with the SECs being dominated by county councillors, grant aid for rural projects will become political rather than being based on worth while projects,” he said.
“The new SEC’s replace the County Development Boards which were no more than talking shops.”
The IFA Rural Development Chairperson said from the IFA’s contact with the EU Commission said it is clear that the existing Leader structure of local and voluntary involvement along with the County Council representation, works well. “Indeed, many countries have adopted the Irish model of local development and it would be ironic if the Government were now to change the working of local development companies,” he said.
Commenting on the other aspects of the proposal, IFA welcomed the streamlining of some of the existing structures. However it was important that local authorities stick to their remit of providing services but not use vital EU funds to shore up the Council’s coffers.
Mr McCarthy said that it is vitally important that, in the run up to the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan, the necessary structures are put in place to ensure that EU funded and National supported schemes have more meaning to farmers and the wider rural economy.