Ring called on to clarify community scheme funding cuts

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has been called on by independent TD Carol Nolan to clarify why his department has cut the funding allocation for the Community Enhancement Scheme (CES).

The scheme has been reduced from a total of €13 million in 2018 – including €500,000 that was ring-fenced for men’s sheds – to €4.5 million for 2019, according to the midlands TD.

Deputy Nolan voiced mounting concern that rural development and enhancement schemes will be hit to address the projected cost of the National Broadband Plan for rural Ireland which is expected to exceed €3 billion.

While I certainly accept the bona fides of this minister in terms of his clear concern for rural Ireland; a cut of this magnitude demands explanation.

Most people will look at the cut of €8.5 million and ask is the minister or his department simply playing sleight of hand, increasing funding for some schemes and draining it from others,” the Offaly TD said.

Minister Ring has already acknowledged that typical enhancements under the programme include the purchase of equipment or materials, improvements to town parks and common areas and spaces, CCTV equipment and energy efficiency type projects.

These are all small but vital areas that need addressing in rural Ireland. It only stands to reason that if you cut the budget for these local projects by almost two thirds then rural communities will suffer as a result.

For example; the local authority in Offaly was allocated €322,142 under the CES last year. This year its allocation is just €138,550.

The TD said that the same is true for Laois, pointing out that, in 2018, the local authority was allocated €294,177 – which this year has been cut to to €136,524.

“I am asking for the minister to clarify why he has agreed to this level of budget allocation-especially as he was the first to accept that the impact of the Community Enhancement Programme has been considerable,” deputy Nolan concluded.