COUNCILLORS have expressed their concern over possible job losses at the West Cork Partnership Development (WCDP) because it has to compete with a Council-backed West Cork Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) for the delivery of the next LEADER programme in West Cork.
At last week's meeting of the Western Committee of Cork County Council in Clonakilty, the issue of the two competing bids to deliver the LEADER programme for 2016-2020 was raised by councillors.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said the situation over competing bids for the delivery of LEADER in West Cork has trundled on for months: ‘This process is pitching the local authority against the WCDP and I’m very disappointed with the shoddy way things have developed. In West Cork, it is heavily tilting the scales to the LCDC,’ alleged Cllr Hayes.
‘The Courtmacsherry Community Shop is completely stalled and they are asking about LEADER funding. They had spoken to Ian Dempsey of the WCDP, but now it’s in limbo because of this carry-on.
‘I don’t see an end in sight and I think it was a mistake to take the delivery of the programme away from a successful group like WCDP. Now, there could be job losses because of this.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said he couldn’t get his head around it and said ‘why destroy something that was working.’
‘Nobody seems to know what is happening and this should have been done and dusted long ago. We can’t tell people anything about funding, as we don’t know ourselves. WCDP did a wonderful job and someone must explain what happened.’
Cllr Rachel McCarthy (SF) said there was confusion about the role of the LCDC and questioned why the group was competing with WCDP: ‘It’s a very sad state of affairs and now we find ourselves in a stand-off. It’s not their fault, they were fully entitled to apply for funding. It will be people and communities who will be losing out at the end of the day.’
Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) said he felt had to defend the work of the LCDC: ‘The LCDC did all their best to to bring WCDP on board, but it hasn’t worked and it’s unfortunate,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.
However Cllr McCarthy said the WCDP did ask the LCDC to do a joint application, but it was turned down: ‘I don’t want them looking bad because there are jobs at stake here. It’s confusing for us as councillors never mind community groups on the ground who are dependent on the funding,’ said Cllr McCarthy.
Meanwhile, Ian Dempsey, chief executive of WCDP, said that the decision by the last Government to pre-determine budgets and territories for the LEADER programme has led to a 70% reduction in LEADER funding for West Cork.
‘It is grossly insufficient to meet the many needs for local enterprise and community development support. The proposed budget of €5.015m for West Cork is the second-lowest nationally and a third less than the LEADER programme for Dublin. Irrespective of whether the local authority or the WCDP delivers the LEADER programme, funding at its current proposed level cannot retain the job numbers currently working on the programme,’ said Mr Dempsey.
Fiona Hayes from the West Cork LCDC said a decision on who will deliver the next programme of LEADER funding will be made independently of Cork County Council and should be made by the end of the summer.