Cork County Councillors Claim Government is Anti-Rural

By Seamus Whelehan

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Cork County Council is to request a meeting with Minister for Rural Affairs, Heather Humphrey’s following concerns by its members, the County is being treated unfairly when it comes to the distribution of her departments’ allocation of a €20 million fund to rural communities over the next two years.
Under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme the country’s thirty one councils will each be given €380,000 to rejuvenate their rural communities.
The money is available for eight towns in each county with a population of less than ten thousand.
Councillors at the May sitting of the authority described the financial injection as a pittance for communities that are fighting to keep their village centres alive.
Independent Councillor John Paul O’Shea said the scheme in its current form was untenable, illogical and inadequate.
Last year the local authority wrote to the Minister requesting an increase in funding under the same programme but were unsuccessful.
Cllr O’Shea said “Cork is being unfairly treated again given the population, given the number of towns it has with a population under 10,000 people and the number of villages it has under 5,000 in population.”
He said “in relation to the plan for Rural Ireland the same treatment in each of the grants that are being brought forward are being treated similarly. The community facilities scheme announced last week I believe is €54,000 per local authority regardless of population or size. The Town Renewal scheme is not the only scheme being unfairly managed it’s every other scheme that’s coming out of the government at the moment.”
Fianna Fail Cllr Frank O’Flynn said in the past through the LEADER project, which had a rural regeneration aspect to it, the authority was “recognised as three counties.” He stated that individual allocations for the Town Renewal programme should be given for South Cork, North Cork and West Cork.
Between 2007 and 2014 Cork County Council had been allocated €49 million in LEADER funding
In 2015 the authority agreed to put €3.5 million over five years into the LEADER programme after government slashed their allocation to €13.9 million, representing almost a 70% cut.
Independent Councillor Timmy Collins stated the amount of money that’s allotted to this village renewal is entirely too small. People in my village are saying it’s not worth applying for it. Also the amount of time applicants have to apply is too short.”
Meanwhile Independent Cllr Marcia Dalton said her village of Passage West received an allocation under last year’s scheme but the funding has still not been released.
“The project was to be delivered last Christmas (2016). We submitted plans for advancement to the Department for approval, and we are now in May still waiting. I would also ask the department it would not just be about image and granting funding. That funding needs to actually work and we can’t work it unless the department work with us. “
Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey said he “supported” the council for pressing the case for an increase in the level of funding.
He said the local authority “every county got €380,000 last year whether it was Leitrim or Longford or Cork County. There is a significant difference between those. We made a strong case for increasing the level of funding four fold”, but were unsuccessful.
Last Friday 19 May the Cork County Council had received 40 applications from community groups through the Town and Renewal programme. Senior engineering staff will have to reduce this number to 15 projects before submitting them to government for funding.

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