The 400 people who crammed into the Abbey Court Hotel in Nenagh for a meeting on changes to the LEADER programme meeting showed the depth of support that is there in the community for North Tipperary LEADER’s work to continue, according to NTLP CEO Michael Murray.
“Our track record, and that of our predecessors over the last 20 years shows that we manage these community services in an efficient, productive and cost effective way,” he said.
Mr Murray said after the meting that local authorities were creating a body with the appearance of independence in the new Local and Community Development Committees, when genuinely independent organisations already exist, local development companies.
“We want to see social inclusion and supports to communities to continue into the future. As was said from the floor: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said.
Under local government reform, the progamme’s operation is being subsumed into Tipperary County Council in the guise of Local Community Development Committees, giving rise to fears over funding for community development and social inclusion.
Jim Finn, chair of NTLP, told the meeeting that the system was hailed across Europe for its cost-effectiveness, and was “unsullied by the scandal and greed” that had come to light in other organisations.
“The work of the last half-century is about to be undone as a thriving civil sector is to be pulled back under State control. These are the darkest days known to the local and community development sector,” said Mr Finn.
He pointed out that it was not being done by Europe, but by “our leaders and masters in our own central Government”.
The chairman revealed that NTLP delivered over 20 local development and special inclusion programmes, and over the past six years had grant aided 400 communities to the tune of E11m.
“We have moved from the days of the hand out to the empowering of communities and disadvantaged people,” he said.
Mr Finn described the reform as an “aligment process” that will see the 48 voluntary board members in North and South Tipperary, which is made up of 16 community representatives and 10 social partners, being cut to one committee for the entire county that will comprise 15 members in total, with only five community representatives.
He warned that a tendering notice for the new social inclusion and activation programmes was issued by the Department of the Environment last week and this could lead to the privatisation of social inclusion.
“If alignment goes ahead, our programme will become the first port of call for savings,” he warned.
“Strength lies in keeping local development funding separate from State structures,” he said.
Mr Finn urged people to sign the national online petition at www.bit.ly/ldcpetition to voice their opposition to the changes and only to support candidates in the forthcoming local elections who are “prepared to stand up and support you”.