“Present situation in regard to the future of Local Development Companies”

//“Present situation in regard to the future of Local Development Companies”

“Present situation in regard to the future of Local Development Companies”

Local Development Companies, (LDC’s), were originally established to provide communities and individuals who have identified the needs of their communities and the challenges facing rural communities, with a vehicle or structure, which they can use to find solutions to these issues.

Therefore the LDC Boards were purposely designed to bring important players around one table in each area. Up to now the Boards consisted of:

• 33% community / voluntary representatives
• 21% statutory representatives
• 25% social partner representatives
• 21% local authority representatives

It is an important point to note that the Boards are weighted in favour of the Community & Voluntary and Social Partner sectors and all decisions taken by the Board can only be considered when these two sectors have the majority of members present. This mechanism is to ensure that those closest to the challenges facing communities are the same people deciding what is best to solve those issues. This is what is referred to as the “bottom-up approach” or “Community Led Local Development”, (CLLD).

After the recent local elections the local authorities were advised by the DoECLG that they are no longer obliged to nominate councillors to the Boards of LDC’s. In our view a Board without councillors seriously diminishes the balance of the Board structure and takes away the very people selected to represent the public from the LDC’s.

In addition, for the past 20 years, the LDC has acted as the Local Action Group, (LAG), for the management and operation of the LEADER Programme. LAG is a legal term specified by the EU as the only entity in an area that is allowed to make decisions on LEADER projects and implement the Programme.

It is now stated Government policy enshrined in legislation, that the newly proposed Local & Community Development Committee’s, (LCDC), will be the LAG for the LEADER Programme 2014 – 2020.

Although the proposed membership of the LCDC will be a mirror image of a Local Development Company i.e. representatives of the community & voluntary sector, state agencies, social partners and local government, the number of representatives will be greatly diminished. For example between the 2 LDC’s in Tipperary there were 16 representatives of the Community & Voluntary sector, there will only be 4 on the LCDC. The number of councillors will be reduced from 8 to 3.

The LCDC will be serviced and supported by employees of the local authority and all payments such as LEADER grants will be decided by the LCDC and paid out by the local authority.

It is agreed that the Community & Voluntary sector will have representatives on the LCDC, but it goes without saying that the role that the Community & Voluntary sector will play is greatly reduced.

The DoECLG have issued a template for the operation of the next LEADER Programme, which does not provide any clarity in regard to the future operation of the LEADER Programme. It does seem that the LDC may play a role in the operation of the LEADER Programme, predominantly assisting communities and individuals to prepare their applications, but what is absolutely clear is that the Local and Community Development Committee will make the final decisions about LEADER funding.

As regard the “bottom up” approach, there will be an extra decision making layer introduced which has the inevitable effect of pushing the decision making process further away from local communities.

All of these changes form an intrinsic part of the Government Policy entitled “Putting People First”.

Financing of Local Development Companies
Most Programmes managed by LDC’s include an Administration Fee which allows the staff implementing these Programmes to be paid, in addition to paying overheads e.g. renting of offices, light, heat, etc.

The percentage spend is fixed at the outset of a Programme by the funder e.g. government department or the EU and the LDC’s budget accordingly for the duration of the contract involved.

The two largest Programmes managed and implemented by LDC’s are the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013, (more commonly known as LEADER), and the Social Inclusion Programme, (LCDP). The Administration percentage allowed is 20% for the LEADER Programme and 30% for the LCDP.

In the case of South Tipperary Development Company our spend on Administration for the LCDP in 2013 was on target at 30%, while our spend on Administration for the LEADER Programme will be just under 18% when we complete the Programme in 2015. In fact this underspend on Administration allowed us to transfer in excess of €250,000 from Administration to Projects.

As the main structure of the Company is paid from the Administration budgets in the two main Programmes e.g. management, board, corporate governance, accounting, audit, rental, etc. this allows us to take on the management of other vital Programmes which come with much smaller Administration budgets e.g. Tús, Rural Social Scheme, Rural Recreation Officer, (walks), Traveller Public Health Programme, The Incredible Years Programme, Ballylynch Playschool and the Home Repairs Service.

This Principal of managing add on Programmes which depend on the LEADER and LCDP Administration funding gets lost in the Alignment debate. There is no understanding at Government level that it is the combination of all these Programmes that allows an LDC to function properly.

Therefore if, as threatened, the Administration budget available to LEADER companies for the next Programme i.e. 2014 – 2020 is reduced to 6/8%, not only the Team managing this Programme will be drastically reduced but also the other Programmes mentioned will be put in serious danger.

Social Inclusion Programme
A request for expressions of interest in regard to the implementation of the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme, (SICAP), 2015-2017 was published on etenders on 15th May, 2014. This Programme will replace the Local & Community Development Programme, (LCDP).

For a number of years the LCDP contracts were automatically provided to the local development companies, (LDC’s), to implement. In 2014 the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, (DoECLG), advised that from now on they are obliged to invite tenders for the implementation of the Social Inclusion Programme contract, which is now called SICAP.

Pobal will assess the submissions received and provide the Local & Community Development Committee, (LCDC), in each County with a panel of successful applicants at the end of Phase 1.

The Tipperary LCDC must then decide if they will seek tenders in respect of 1 or 2 lots in the County. It is my understanding that Pobal will supply relevant data to the LCDC to assist them in their decision. Currently there are 2 Social Inclusion Funds in Tipperary, one operated by North Tipperary LEADER Partnership and the other by South Tipperary Development Company.

A key point to note is that if an entity is not on the Panel approved by Pobal after Phase 1, you will not be allowed to tender for the implementation of SICAP at Phase 2.

This tender competition is open to all companies and consortiums including “For Profit” entities, however experience of operating a Social Inclusion Programme in this State will be given high recognition.

Alignment Working Group
Approximately 18 months ago an Alignment Working Group, (AWG), was established and consisted of 2 DoECLG officials, 2 Pobal representatives, 3 County Managers and 3 LDC representatives.

This group held about 8/10 meetings before the LDC representatives were requested to submit a draft template for the operation of the LEADER Programme and the LCDP. This document was submitted to the DoECLG officials in September, 2013. No comment or feedback has ever been received in regard to this document.

On Thursday 17th April, 2014, the Chairs and CEO’s of all the LDC’s attended an ILDN Council meeting. Following an update from the Alignment Working Group, (AWG), representatives and a long, detailed debate, the decision was taken to withdraw the LDC representatives from the AWG.

On 12th June, 2014, a Department official provided a template for the operation of the LEADER Programme, which is mentioned previously in this paper.

LDC representatives meeting with EU Officials
Local Development Company representatives met with senior officials from DG Agriculture in Brussels on Friday 6th June, 2014.

They outlined all the information and developments to date in regard to the Alignment proposals in Ireland, including the proposed methods for selecting members of the LCDC.

In summary, the officials from DG Agriculture are not in agreement with the proposals for the “ownership” of the LCDC, its membership, its ability/power to manage and/or sub contract any elements of the LEADER Programme and the role of the Chief Executive/County Manager.

The EU officials confirmed that the only element of the LEADER Programme that can be sub-contracted is the Animation role.

They expressed some surprise that Ireland was choosing to change the delivery method, bearing in mind that the EU Officials are encouraging other member states to follow Ireland’s lead in regard to delivery.

The application to the EU for the next LEADER Programme is called the Partnership Agreement. The Irish States application has been returned for amendment on at least two occasions and the next deadline for submission of the Partnership Agreement is 27th July, 2014. It is within the context of this application for funding that DG Agriculture will get the opportunity to comment on the proposed new delivery methods for the next LEADER Programme.

It is worth bearing in mind that in our view, these delays in securing agreement with the EU have potentially put the RDP 6/9 months behind normal timescales and potentially puts LEADER funding for the next Programme of €250 million in jeopardy. It should also be noted that the last LEADER Programme was in excess of €425 million.

Media Campaign
There has been a subtle media campaign ongoing over the last 2 years attempting to undermine the performance of Local Development Companies. The leaking of CEO’s salaries to the Irish Independent was only one such example of this tactic.

Another tactic has been to use reporters in the daily newspapers to sensationalise the findings of inspections of LEADER project files in some LDC’s, inaccurately reporting that certain LDC’s have been reported to the Gardaí and the “EU Anti-Fraud Squad” which actually does not exist. In fairness to the DoECLG officials they have been quick to point out that the LDC in question has not been reported to the Gardaí. However they are reluctant to confirm these details in the national Newspapers.

Such inspections are a normal part of LDC’s workload and any findings are usually of a clerical error nature and are corrected to the satisfaction of the Inspector involved.

Another area that is raised is in regard to LDC’s ability to spend our full LEADER allocation. Despite the fact that the DoECLG delayed the commencement of the 2007-2013 LEADER Programme for two years and instructed the LDC’s to suspend allocation and approvals for 6 months in 2013, the spend is on target to be completed by the end of 2014 as is allowed for in the LEADER Programme. South Tipperary Development Company’s spend is currently in excess of 80% of our allocation.

The reason for the suspension of approvals in 2013 was to allow the DoECLG the opportunity to assess the level of spend throughout the country.

Establishment of LCDC
It is intended that the Tipperary LCDC will be established at the July meeting of Tipperary County Council which is scheduled for 14th July, 2014.

LEADER Campaign Rally
A number of LDC Chairpersons throughout the country are organising a LEADER Campaign Rally outside Dail Eireann on Wednesday 9th July. Transport is being organised from each LDC area. Anyone wishing to travel should email southtipprally@gmail.com or telephone 087 7607880

2018-01-19T22:17:02+00:00 July 1st, 2014|News|Comments Off on “Present situation in regard to the future of Local Development Companies”