2 September 2022
By Tom Collins
Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands launches its pre-Budget 2023 submission to the Minister for Rural and Community Development on Bere Island in West Cork
The Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands has today, Friday September 02, launched its pre-Budget 2023 submission to the Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys on Bere Island in West Cork.
The Committee is recommending changes to the funding framework of the voluntary and charitable sector, additional supports for communities and community organisations, improved transport links to the islands are among the recommendations in the report.
Cathaoirleach of the Committee Denis Naughten said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on all community, voluntary and charitable organisations across the Country and the Committee believes that it is imperative that the State provides them with direct support as they begin to recover particularly now with rising running costs”.
The pre-Budget report makes several significant recommendations in relation to community organisations and the voluntary and charitable sector which include:
– The immediate establishment of a new LEADER programme to meet the growing demand from rural enterprises and community organisations.
– An increase in the Community Enhancement Fund by €20m provide for the capital development of new and major refurbishment of existing community facilities such as community centres.
– Funding for Age Action groups and Men’s and Women’s Sheds should increase by €5 million.
– Adequate and sustainable support for the charitable and voluntary sector.
Deputy Naughten said: “These groups are the backbone of life in Ireland, providing jobs, tourism, care and health supports and housing to a significant part of our population. It is essential they are supported. Similarly, there are several schemes and initiatives in rural Ireland that must be protected.”
He added that the Committee has made specific recommendations on supports for island communities including:
– A €10 million fund for major and minor capital development works on the islands.
– The Committee recommends that current funding for the Islands air and ferry services are increased by €1.5m to cover increased costs and develop new and improved services to the islands.
– The Committee recommends that a new air service initially three days a week to Inisbofin is funded in Budget 2023, particularly as Inisbofin already has an airstrip.
– LEADER grant aid on the islands for private individual projects increases from 50% to 85% and community projects from 75% to 85%.
The Committee also made a number of recommendations with regard to transport infrastructure:
– The Rural Regeneration and Development Fund should be used as a vehicle to develop rail projects in rural areas.
– Increased funding for improving local infrastructure with regards to the Local Improvement Scheme, the Walks Scheme, the Mountain Access Scheme, and an expansion of the Elder Home Share.
“The Committee is of the opinion that Oireachtas Committees should have the ability to inform and partake in the pre–Budget process and publishes this report to that effect,” said Deputy Naughten.
“The Joint Committee will continue to engage with both the Minister and the Department of Rural and Community Development and seek regular updates on the implementation of the recommendations set out in this report.”
Read the full 28 page report here.