COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE & PERSONNEL
Inquiry Into European Union Structural Funds
- The Peace II Programme
Volume 1: Report
"We consider that the district partnerships . have had a positive effect on the whole community in terms of targeting disadvantage, addressing social exclusion and making a contribution to the social economic progress and well being."
The Northern Ireland Partnership Board
"We believe firmly . that there is a need in Northern Ireland to create social stability and an environment in which the economy can thrive and to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from economic prosperity."
The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust
"Our vision can only be achieved through the full implementation of the strategic principles of rural development; spatial equity; valuing the social resource; valuing the environment; economic innovation; valuing people; respecting difference and public service."
The Rural Development Council
"Our vision is of vibrant, articulate, inclusive and sustainable rural communities across Northern Ireland contributing to a prosperous, equitable, peaceful and stable society."
Rural Community Network
"It is our experience that a significant number of groups find cross-border activities to be the ideal first step towards their own group facing their differences at a local level. Cross-border co-operation . improves relationships between communities on a cross-border basis and between communities within Northern Ireland."
Cross-Border Community Development Network
COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
The Committee for Finance and Personnel is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Standing Order No. 45 of The Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Finance and Personnel and has a role in the initiation of legislation.
The Committee has the power to:
The Committee has eleven members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of five members.
The membership of the Committee since its establishment on 29 November 1999 is as follows:
THE ALLOCATION OF FUNDS
1. The Committee recommends to the Department of Finance and Personnel that the documentation produced on Peace II, should recognise the need for social inclusion and reconciliation so enabling the most disadvantaged communities in our society to benefit from economic regeneration (Section 4, paragraph 4.2.2).
2. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should seek to encourage the Managing Authority to establish criteria that will lead to those projects that incorporate both social and economic objectives being identified and prioritised (Page Section 4, paragraph 4.2.4)
3. The Committee recommends that, as far as practicable, the Department of Finance and Personnel ensures that the targets for the allocation of Peace II funds take proper account of policies relating to equality and New Targeting Social Need (Section 4, paragraph 4.2.6).
4. The Committee recommends that an appropriate information and monitoring system be agreed between the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Managing Authority to enable regular analysis of the use of Peace II funds in terms of equality and New Targeting Social Need (Section 4, paragraph 4.2.8).
5. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should issue guidance to departments to ensure that Structural Funds moneys are not to be used as a budgetary resource to finance their departmental programmes and thus uphold the principle of additionality. (Section 4, paragraph 4.2.10).
6. The Committee recommends that the results of independent reviews of the functions undertaken by the various types of funding bodies under Peace I should be taken into account in finalising the mechanisms for delivery of the Peace II Programme (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.3).
7. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should consider the formal linkages between the funding bodies that are needed to create consistency of approach, proper co-ordination and the application of set standards in the generation and handling of applications (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.5).
8. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should provide guidance to district partnerships regarding the encouraging of applications from all communities in order to overcome any apparent discrepancies in the allocation of grants (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.6).
9. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, should examine the scope for overcoming the difficulties of the rural community (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.8).
10. The Committee recommends that consideration should be given to establishing a 'Rural Sub-group' of the Monitoring Committee with its membership drawn from all of the rural stakeholders (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.10).
11. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should prepare publicity material in respect of Peace II, which incorporates general advice for issue to all prospective applicants about the availability of funding, the purposes for which it may be sought and the first steps to be taken to initiate applications (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.11).
12. The Committee recommends that each of the funding bodies should review its strategy for attracting applications with a view to providing all possible encouragement and assistance to potential applicants (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.12).
13. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel, in conjunction with the Managing Authority, should establish agreed audit arrangements for the funding bodies that are commensurate with the level of grants being given (Section 4, paragraph 4.3.14).
THE FUNDING GAP
14. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should undertake inquiries to determine the full extent to which otherwise viable projects may be damaged by a gap in funding and to advise the organisations concerned about remedies that might be applied (Section 4, paragraph 4.4.2).
15. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should establish criteria for assessing projects for which self-sufficiency is or is not required to be an objective and, where appropriate, the degree of self-sufficiency to be achieved (Section 4, paragraph 4.5.2).
16. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should prepare guidelines for issue to prospective applicants on the need for self-sufficiency (Section 4, paragraph 4.5.3).
17. The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority prepare for issue to all applicant organisations, general advice on the options to achieve self-sufficiency in those projects for which it is a required objective (Section 4, paragraph 4.5.6).
18. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should co-ordinate a review by departments of the level of long term funding that can be sustained from departmental budgets and for what kind of project or scheme it may be sought (ie, health projects, lifelong learning, etc) (Section 4, paragraph 4.5.7).
19. The Committee recommends that any guidance issued to funding bodies and/or applicant groups should emphasise that departmental funding should be regarded as a last resort for long term sustainability (Section 4, paragraph 4.5.8).TOP
1.1.1 The Committee for Finance and Personnel, in fulfilling its scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Finance and Personnel, undertook an inquiry into the funding arrangements of the European Union's Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (EUSSPPR, or 'Peace I') on 29 June 2000. The Committee paid particular attention to the experience gained by local intermediary funding bodies of the oversight and management of the allocations made under the Peace I Programme.
1.1.2 The funding bodies were asked for their views on the relationship between the social and economic objectives in projects, the approval and supervision of funds, the gap in funding between the ending of the Peace I Programme and the start of the Peace II Programme, and the self-sufficiency of projects once the Programme funding ends.
1.2 The relations between Peace I and Peace II
1.2.1 The Peace II Programme builds upon the work of the Peace I Programme, though without constituting a simple continuation of Peace I. The rationale for both programmes remains the same, albeit with Peace II having a greater economic focus than Peace I. There is a slight difference in the aims of each programme, reflecting the modified focus of Peace II. And Peace II has a revised set of Priorities, broadly following those of Peace I though with a reduced number of Priorities, and a modified allocation of funds across Priorities. However, the most significant differences concern the organisation of the Programme, and their different character as EU Programmes.
1.2.2 Peace I was established as a Community Initiative Programme (CIP), under old EU regulations for CIPs. Furthermore it was established in a somewhat ad hoc manner in response to the ceasefires/cessations of 1994, and remained a singular and special case of EU Structural Funds Programmes. In contrast to this, Peace II has been established in a systematic manner, under revised EU regulations, and as a mainstream Operational Programme with the same status as other Operational Programmes, including, for example the Transitional Objective 1 Programme for Northern Ireland. As a consequence, the arrangements for developing and implementing the Peace II Programme are quite distinct from those of its predecessor.
1.2.3 The process of establishing the Peace II Programme falls into two broad stages. The first concerns the Programme design and primarily involves the Member State (MS) and European Commission (EC). The second concerns establishing the requisite institutions and finalising the detail of the Programme, and primarily involves the institutions established under the Programme, specifically the Managing Authority (MA), the Monitoring Committee (MC) and the Payment Authority (PA).
1.3 Aims of the Peace II Programme
1.3.1 The Peace II Programme is shaped to meet the unique needs of Northern Ireland and the Border Counties in the context of peace. The Programme, which will build on the work of the Peace I Programme, has five priorities i.e. to:
1.4 Programme Design
1.4.1 The Peace II Programme forms a constituent component of both the Structural Funds Programmes for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and as such is subject to the revised regulations concerning EU Structural Funds. Under these revised regulations, Member States must draw up a Development Plan, which constitutes the Member State's proposals for the Community Support Framework (CSF). This is to be submitted to the European Commission, and serves as the basis for negotiating the final CSF. Each CSF will have two or more Operational Programmes (OPs) as supplements. In the case of Northern Ireland, there are OPs for both the Transitional Objective 1 Programme and the Peace II Programme. Finally, and of most immediate concern to groups 'on the ground', there is the Programme Complement (PC). This is drawn up by the Managing Authority, is confirmed by the Monitoring Committee and contains the detail concerning measures and eligible projects. The following table illustrates these relationships.
1.5 Programme Institutions
1.5.1 Under the revised regulations, Member States must designate three distinct Authorities for managing and administering the various Operational Programmes. These consist in a Managing Authority, a Monitoring Committee and a Payment Authority. The role of each is as follows:
1.5.2 With respect to the Peace II Programme, the requisite institutions for the Programme are as follows:
1.6.1 The revised EU Structural Funds Regulations make specific provision for the development of a 'partnership' approach to the oversight and management of the Peace II Programme. The Regulations require that the Member State ensure the association of the relevant partners at the different stages of programming. This includes the preparation, financing, monitoring and evaluation of assistance. The intention is that these requirements will be met in full by continuing and building on the partnership structures and experience developed in the preparation of the Northern Ireland Structural Funds Plan. After approval of the Community Support Framework and the Peace II Operational Programme by the European Commission, the Managing Authority will consult with relevant partners in drawing up the Programme Complement.
1.7 The Peace II Programme and its relations to the Transitional Objective 1 Programme
1.7.1 The Transitional Objective 1 Programme and the Peace II Programme have distinctive but complementary roles under the Northern Ireland Community Support Framework. The Department of Finance and Personnel will be the Managing Authority for the Community Support Framework, including the Transitional Objective 1 Programme. The Special EU Programmes Implementations Body will be the managing Authority for the Peace II Programme. The body will be responsible for all aspects of the financial and other monitoring of the Programme, and will be responsible to the Member States for chairing the Peace II Monitoring Committee. The body will work in close collaboration with the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Department of Finance, and other Northern Ireland and Ireland Departments accountable for relevant expenditure.
1.7.2 An overarching Monitoring Committee will oversee the implementation of the Community Support Framework. In addition, a Monitoring Committee will be established for each of the Operational Programmes. The membership of the Monitoring Committees' will be based on partnerships with relevant national, regional and local interests, though details have yet to be finalised.
1.8.1 Peace II Programme funding will run from 2000-2004, with a total funding of 425 million euros (£262 million as at 19/07/00) to be spent across the five priority areas. A table of the current allocation across each of the five priorities is given below
Table 1: 5-year Allocations across Priorities (NI Structural Funds Plan 2000-2006)
1.8.2 The position on adjusting allocations between Priorities and Measures is as follows:
1.8.3 EU funding is fixed in terms of euros. The amount of funding actually and ultimately available will depend upon sterling:euro exchange rate fluctuations.
1.8.4 The Department of Finance and Personnel, in response to concerns by the Committee about the possible loss of funds to Northern Ireland if there is a slow rate of expenditure, has indicated that the Structural Funds Regulations are more stringent for the Peace II Programme. They are more stringent with respect to rules regarding the valid timescale for claiming monies committed by the EU, and with respect to possible 'irregularities', in that under revised regulations the EC can seek reimbursement of mismanaged funds.
1.8.5 With respect to the issue of time-tabling the flow of funds, an exception has been made for the first year of the Programme. Should the CSF and OP receive EC approval in October, then this exception will allow Peace II monies for 2000 to be applied for by October 2003 and not December 2002. For 2001 the Commission will expect the commitment to be opened by 30 April 2001 and all monies claimed by end 2003 with a similar pattern repeated for each subsequent year.
1.8.6 The Department of Finance and Personnel must therefore proceed as quickly as possible to have the necessary preparations in place for establishing the programme institutions and completing the Programme Complement, in anticipation of EC approval of the CSF and Operational Programmes, so that funding to projects can be released promptly.
1.9 Gap in Funding
1.9.1 The Committee requested that the Department of Finance and Personnel examine the extent of the perceived gap in funding of projects between Peace I and the commencement of Peace II Programme allocations. The Department has explained that the delay in implementing the new round of Structural Funds Programmes has prevented a full examination of the problem.
1.9.2 An initial investigation identified bridging support totalling £2 million that was provided by the Department to the Department of Social Development to enable it to sustain projects that have been affected. A further £3 million was to be provided by the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment to eligible projects. The pressures were identified in the sectors supported by intermediary funding bodies such as the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust. The Northern Ireland Partnership Board indicated that District Partnerships had not, as yet, signalled any similar difficulties.
1.9.3 Notwithstanding the Department of Finance and Personnel's initial enquiries, and the evidence of the witnesses, the prospect of additional delays in establishing the Peace II Programme should not be neglected. The new round of Structural Funds have encountered implementation difficulties throughout the EU, due to the difficulties of many Member States in achieving a practical understanding of the revised regulations and establishing new organisational systems, along with more concerted and rigorous action on the part of the EC with respect to scrutinising and examining the draft Programmes submitted to them by Member States. Furthermore, after EC approval of the CSFs and OPs, there exists a further phase of programme finalisation, which requires completion before funds can be released to interested parties 'on the ground'. And finally, given the novelty of the SEUPIB as Managing Authority for the Peace II Programme, the likelihood of additional delays and blockages in the final stages of the process cannot be dismissed.TOP
2.1.1 The Committee sought evidence from a number of representative intermediary bodies that had been responsible for overseeing and administering the Peace I Programme allocations to community organisations in the Region.
2.1.2 The organisations that gave written and oral evidence to the Committee were the:
2.1.3 The following organisation was unable to attend the oral evidence session and gave written evidence only to the Committee:
2.2.1 The organisations gave evidence based on four main questions. These were:
"With regard to the forthcoming introduction of the Community Support Framework and in particular the Peace II Programme:
2.2.2 The Committee questioned the witnesses on these four main issues and on a number of supplementary areas.TOP
3.1 A full transcript of evidence taken from these bodies can be found in the Minutes of Evidence section of this report. Associated written submissions are included as annexes to those Minutes of Evidence. The following paragraphs set out the Committee's assessment of the main points made by each organisation are provided below:
3.2 On the Allocation of Funds
3.2.1 Witnesses were asked for their views on the appropriate ratio for allocating funds to (a) social, (b) economic projects.
3.2.2 The Northern Ireland Partnership Board (NIPB) said:
3.2.3 The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT) said:
3.2.4 The Rural Development Council for Northern Ireland (RDC) said:
3.2.5 The Rural Community Network (RCN) said:
3.2.6 The Cross-Border Community Development Network said:
3.3 On the Delivery Structures/Mechanisms
3.3.1 Witnesses were asked what delivery structures/mechanisms they thought should be adopted for assessing, approving and supervising/monitoring the allocation and use of funds.
3.3.2 The Northern Ireland Partnership Board (NIPB) said:
3.3.3 The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT) said:
3.3.4 The Rural Development Council for Northern Ireland (RDC) said:
3.3.5 The Rural Community Network (RCN) said:
3.3.6 The Cross-Border Community Development Network said:
3.4 On the Question of a 'Gap' in Funding
3.4.1 Witnesses were asked whether there was a 'gap' in funding between the ending of the Peace I Programme and the commencement of the Peace II Programme and how this would impact on projects under their control.
3.4.2 The Northern Ireland Partnership Board (NIPB) said:
3.4.3 The Northern Ireland voluntary Trust (NIVT) said:
3.4.4 The Rural Development Council for Northern Ireland (RDC) said:
3.4.5 The Rural Community Network (RCN) said:
3.4.6 The Cross-Border Community Development Network said:
3.5 On Ensuring Self Sufficiency
3.5.1 Witnesses were asked what proposals they would make to ensure that projects currently under their control became self sufficient by the end of the Peace II Programme.
3.5.2 The Northern Ireland Partnership Board (NIPB) said:
3.5.3 The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT) said:
3.5.4 The Rural Development Council for Northern Ireland (RDC) said:
3.5.5 The Rural Community Network (RCN) said:
3.5.6 The Cross-Border Community Development Network said:
4.1 After considering the evidence before it the Committee addressed the four main issues outlined in Section 2 above.
4.2 The Allocation of Funds
4.2.1 The Committee noted a universal acceptance among the Intermediary Funding Bodies that the Peace II Programme should aim to assist both economic and social projects. A view was expressed by one organisation that building trust and relationships was what this programme was about. Unless it did that, the economic focus would falter because it needed to be underpinned by that building of trust. They concluded that social inclusion and community development would enable communities that have been marginalised, excluded and disadvantaged to build confidence and become actively involved in economic regeneration. Another organisation noted that Peace II was about peace and reconciliation and was complementary to both the Transitional Objective I Programme and mainstream departmental expenditure. As economic projects were given a high priority in those areas it was suggested that Peace II should focus on social issues.
4.2.2 The Committee recommends to the Department of Finance and Personnel that the documentation produced on Peace II, should recognise the need for social inclusion and reconciliation so enabling the most disadvantaged communities in our society to benefit from economic regeneration.
4.2.3 The Committee was also impressed by the view expressed by one witness that social and economic objectives were interdependent and that it would be dangerous to isolate them into separate boxes. Another organisation believed that stand alone social and economic outputs were more difficult to achieve within the rural economy owing to a number of factors.
4.2.4 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should seek to encourage the Managing Authority to establish criteria that will lead to those projects that incorporate both social and economic objectives being identified and prioritised.
4.2.5 The Committee noted the views expressed by a witness that the Government should provide guidance regarding the targets that they were seeking to achieve through the application of Structural Funds. This would assist those who had the responsibility of overseeing the allocation of the money. Another organisation noted that economic regeneration would be useful only if it was linked to jobs for all parts of society. It must tackle inequality, address long-term unemployment and reach marginalised communities.
4.2.6 The Committee recommends that, as far as practicable, the Department of Finance and Personnel ensures that the targets for the allocation of Peace II funds take proper account of policies relating to equality and New Targeting Social Need..
4.2.7 The Committee was convinced that the setting of objectives for the operation of the Programmes must be accompanied by adequate monitoring systems to ensure that the degree to which the objectives were achieved could be adequately measured. One witness said that the allocation of funds should be continually monitored to ensure an equitable spread of resources and opportunities across the region.
4.2.8 The Committee recommends that an appropriate information and monitoring system be agreed between the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Managing Authority to enable regular analysis of the use of Peace II funds, particularly in terms of equality and New Targeting Social Need.
4.2.9 Some organisations expressed general concerns that an acceptance of the need for economic objectives within Peace II should not lead to funds being directed into mainstream projects. One organisation felt that in dealing with the inclusion of economic objectives it was important to avoid funds being allocated for gas pipelines and road building schemes. The Committee recognised that under the EU Structural Funds Regulations the opportunity for Departments to utilise funds for mainstream projects was significantly reduced.
4.2.10 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should issue guidance to departments to ensure that Structural Funds moneys are not to be used as a budgetary resource to finance their departmental programmes and thus uphold the principle of additionality.
4.3 Delivery Structures/Mechanisms
4.3.1 The Committee was not surprised that, while the Intermediary Funding Bodies were reluctant to propose their continued role in delivering Peace II, they nonetheless were proud of all that had been achieved with the previous programme. One witness confirmed that her organisation supported the retention of three types of delivery mechanism - the community funding bodies, the partnerships and the departments. She added that there was a need for greater clarity and co-ordination between these different levels.
4.3.2 Some organisations espoused the principle that form should follow function and that funding organisations should be structured in a manner that best suited their role.
4.3.3 The Committee recommends that the results of independent reviews of the functions undertaken by the various types of funding bodies under Peace I should be taken into account in finalising the mechanisms for delivery of the Peace II Programme.
4.3.4 The Committee members raised a number of concerns regarding the difficulties experienced in obtaining funding for schemes proposed by Protestant communities. One organisation confirmed that there was less of a history of such activity within Protestant communities. As a result district partnerships were directed to take a more strategic view of their use of funds and avoid being 'application driven'. They were also encouraged to take a more pro-active stance with regard to applications rather than simply sit and wait for them to arrive. Another organisation had developed a simpler system for groups to make applications, avoiding complicated forms and arranging for their development officers to visit the groups and give direct assistance. This approach was shared by a further organisation that concentrated on getting the message across to local groups, ie "we want your application, we want your community to engage with community development."
4.3.5 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should consider the formal linkages between the funding bodies that are needed to create consistency of approach, proper co-ordination and the application of set standards in the generation and handling of applications.
4.3.6 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should provide guidance to district partnerships regarding the encouraging of applications from all communities in order to overcome any apparent discrepancies in the allocation of grants.
4.3.7 Committee members were particularly concerned about the difficulties being experienced by rural communities throughout the country. One organisation expressed the view that the most appropriate vehicle to address the problems of cultural diversity in rural areas was to reallocate an appropriate amount from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund through a rural intermediary. The Committee recognised that the revised regulations for Peace II prevent such a reallocation.
4.3.8 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, should examine the scope for overcoming the difficulties of the rural community.
4.3.9 A witness expressed concern about the lack of priority given to the rural community in the overall allocation of the Structural Funds. He suggested that there should be rural proofing of the delivery of all the measures and that creating a 'Rural Sub-group' of the Shadow Monitoring Committee could ensure this. The Committee was also concerned about the need to publicise the availability of funding under the Programme and notes that this will be a requirement under Peace II.
4.3.10 The Committee recommends that consideration should be given to establishing a 'Rural Sub-group' of the Monitoring Committee with its membership drawn from all of the rural stakeholders.
4.3.11 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should prepare publicity material in respect of Peace II, which incorporates general advice for issue to all prospective applicants about the availability of funding, the purposes for which it may be sought and the first steps to be taken to initiate applications.
4.3.12 The Committee recommends that each of the funding bodies should review its strategy for attracting applications with a view to providing all possible encouragement and assistance to potential applicants.
4.3.13 The Committee was interested to hear the views of several of the funding organisations regarding the matters of accountability and auditing. Members were agreed that the integrity of this entire process must be protected and placed beyond reasonable criticism. They did, however, take account of concerns about the numbers of audits being undertaken. One group said that it was suffering from "audit fatigue". Another organisation stated that it had attracted seven sets of auditors representing both local and European agencies.
4.3.14 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel, in conjunction with the Managing Authority, should establish agreed audit arrangements for the funding bodies that are commensurate with the level of grants being given.
4.4 The Funding 'Gap'
4.4.1 The Committee noted that two organisations had reported experiencing difficulty with funding schemes that fall between the Peace I and II Programmes. One organisation stated there was a 'gap' with some projects that were coming to an end of their financial cycle. They stated that, if the groups were to remain committed and confident of their ability to continue to operate, it was very important that work in deprived areas was allowed to proceed.21
4.4.2 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should undertake inquiries to determine the full extent to which otherwise viable projects may be damaged by a gap in funding and to advise the organisations concerned about remedies that might be applied.
4.5 Self Sufficiency
4.5.1 The Committee was pleased to hear about the commitment of all the witness groups to sustainability and self-sufficiency for grant aided projects. One organisation stated that it had produced publications about sustainability. Another organisation expressed the view that sustainability should be achieved in respect of the outputs of a project with less emphasis on the project itself.
4.5.2 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should establish criteria for assessing projects for which self-sufficiency is or is not required to be an objective and, where appropriate, the degree of self-sufficiency to be achieved.
4.5.3 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should prepare guidelines for issue to prospective applicants on the need for self-sufficiency.
4.5.4 The Committee was interested to hear about the emphasis being placed upon long-term planning by the funding organisations. One organisation expressed the view that with Peace II the IFBs and district partnerships needed to sit down with the applicant groups. There was recognition that planning was needed in a strategic way so that the available funding would be used over the next 4-5 years to obtain a self-financing situation or a natural home within a department. The Committee was clear that only a small proportion of grant-aided projects or schemes could ever hope to obtain permanent funding from the public purse.
4.5.5 One witness said that her organisation was examining the possibility of linking and consolidating a number of projects, some of which may be less capable than others of financial independence in order to achieve a form of group viability.
4.5.6 The Committee recommends that the Managing Authority should prepare and issue to all applicant organisations, general advice on the options to achieve self-sufficiency in those projects for which it is a required objective.
4.5.7 The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel should co-ordinate a review by departments of the level of long term funding that that can be sustained from departmental budgets and for what kind of project or scheme it may be sought (eg, health projects, lifelong learning, etc)
4.5.8 The Committee recommends that any guidance issued to funding bodies and/or applicant groups should emphasise that departmental funding should be regarded as a last resort for long term sustainability.TOP
5.1 The Committee is most encouraged by the professionalism and commitment demonstrated by the five major funding bodies that provided evidence to members. The Committee is reassured that the funds to be provided under the Peace II Programme can be managed to the high standards already achieved with the earlier programme.
5.2 While taking on board the concerns of many of the witnesses about the balance of funding and their belief that the focus should remain on social projects, the Committee is conscious of the interdependence of these issues. The Committee believes it is important that an appropriate balance between these two objectives should be maintained.
5.3 The Committee believes that, in order to create greater understanding among both the funding organisations and the applicants, greater clarity should be sought in setting targets for the delivery of funds and for the level of performance monitoring that is required.
5.4 The Committee is generally content that the existing structure of Intermediary Funding Bodies, district partnerships and departments has performed well in the past and should inform the creation of a structure for delivering Peace II. Improvements may be obtained in the appointment process for the partnerships and in the manner in which their individual strategies are devised and co-ordinated.
5.5 The Committee is generally relieved to find that there is no widespread concern over difficulties with a 'gap' in the funding between the outgoing and incoming programmes. However, it is an issue that may become more difficult should delays occur in the implementation of the Peace II Programme. The Committee believes that the Department of Finance and Personnel should take whatever action is needed to minimise the risk of damage to those schemes and projects that are vulnerable
5.6 The Committee is a little concerned to hear that many organisations see public sector finance as the answer to long term viability for their schemes. While this might be an appropriate solution for a few, it is patently not a practicable way forward for the majority. All concerned need to re-consider their approach to this question and make adequate preparation for the eventual withdrawal of all Structural Funds.
5.7 The Committee recommends this Report and its recommendations to the Assembly.TOP TOP
Northern Ireland Partnership Board;
Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust;
Rural Community Development Council; and
Rural Community Network.
1. Northern Ireland Partnership Board (see Appendix 5, Annex 1)
2. Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (see Appendix 5, Annex 2)
Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Room 144, Parliament Buildings
Present: Mr Francie Molloy (Chairman)
Apologies: Mr Billy Bell
In attendence: Mr Martin Wilson (Committee Clerk)
The Chairman declared the meeting open at 2.00 pm. The meeting was held in closed session.
Any Other Business
Evidence Session on EU Structural Funds
Resolved: The Committee agreed to take evidence on Thursday, 29 June from interested organisations on European Union Structural Funds Community Support Framework and the Peace II Programme, with particular reference to the perceived gap in funding, social and economic criteria, monitoring arrangements and sustainability.
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
Present: Mr Francie Molloy (Chairman)
Apologies: Mr Alex Attwood
Witnesses: Northern Ireland Partnership Board
Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust
Rural Community Development Council
Rural Community Network.
In attendence: Mr Martin Wilson (Committee Clerk)
The Chairman declared the meeting open at 2.05 pm. The meeting was held in open session. Mr Alex Maskey attended at 2.35 pm. Mr Peter Weir attended at 4.20 pm.
1. Evidence Session on EU Structural Funds
1.1 The Committee took written and oral evidence from witnesses representing the Northern Ireland Partnership Board, Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, Rural Community Development Council, and Rural Community Network.
1.2 The witnesses were questioned on the European Union Structural Funds Community Support Framework and the Peace II Programme, with particular reference to the perceived gap in funding, social and economic criteria, monitoring arrangements and sustainability.
The Chairman declared the meeting closed at 5.10 pm.
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
Present: Mr Francie Molloy (Chairman)
In attendence: Mr Martin Wilson (Committee Clerk)
The Chairman declared the meeting open at 2.00 pm. The meeting was held in closed session except for agenda items 4 to 8, which were opened to the public.
Peace II Programme Evidence Session Report
Resolved: The Committee agreed to meet on 27 July at 9.30 am to consider a report to the Assembly on the outcome of the Committee's consideration of the Peace II Programme funding and other matters.
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
Present: Mr Francie Molloy (Chairman)
Apologies: Mr James Leslie (Deputy Chairman)
In attendance: Mr Martin Wilson (Committee Clerk)
The Chairman brought the meeting to order at 9.35am.The meeting was held in closed session.
3. Inquiry into European Union Structural Funds - Peace II Programme
Mr Alex Attwood left the meeting at 11.05am.
The draft report was read for the first time.
Title page, Contents and preamble read, amended and agreed.
Section 1 paragraphs 1.1 to 1.9.3 read and agreed.
Resolved: that the Report as amended be the Report of the Committee.
that written and oral evidence obtained from the following should be included:-
Resolved: the Committee ordered the Report to be printed.
The Chairman concluded the meeting at 12.20pm.
Thursday 29 June 2000
Mr Molloy (Chairman)
Mrs P Keegan )
1. The Chairman: You are very welcome, the Northern Ireland Partnership Board. As you know the whole issue is on the lines of the European structure of funds and how you see it and your response. So if you make your presentation for up to ten minutes, then we will get members to ask questions. Some of the members will join us as well when they come in from other meetings
2. Mrs Keegan: The Northern Ireland Partnership Board welcomes the opportunity to meet with the DFP Assembly Committee. As a Board we have been active over the last four years in promoting the partnership concept within the first Peace Programme, and it is our view that partnership should continue to play a key role in Peace II.
3. We consider that the District Partnerships and the funds they have dispersed over the last four years, almost £81 million, have had a positive effect on the whole community in terms of targeting disadvantage, addressing social exclusion and making a contribution to social and economic progress and well being.
4. A recent independent evaluation undertaken for the Northern Ireland Partnership Board by KPMG Consultants on the impact of district partnership spend, demonstrated well, we feel, the success of the partnership product, if I can call it that, in that over 1100 jobs have been created, more than 1000 new day care places have been established, as well as 1800 new pre-school education places. 40 new buildings have been funded, 150 buildings upgraded and 100 sites improved.
5. These are impressive figures in anyone's language, and on the process side we think they are just as encouraging. 70% of those interviewed for the evaluation said that participation in the partnership programmes had positively changed their understanding of the views held by the other community. Ninety per cent said that the district partnership have had a beneficial impact on peace and reconciliation in their community.
6. In Peace II we are trying to protect the best of this activity and this process, by taking it and evolving it into a more strategic wide ranging initiative, which involves all of the key players in an area, working in a co-ordinated complimentary way to create a strategic plan for their area. In this way we hope that the partnership concept can become sustainable perhaps beyond the life of Peace II, when the money runs out, by establishing itself now as a champion for sub-regional integrated development. We consider of course that to do that we need a substantial sum of money within Priority 3 of the Peace programme which is the locally based regeneration and development priority and the home of the partnerships.
7. To date as you will know the allocation is less than last time, currently standing at £74 million as opposed to £81 million in the first round. Of that figure £25 million is the Councils' local economic development money. Now if you set that aside the allocation is less than £50 million which is a reduction of around about 40%. We do not welcome that of course.
8. On a more general note, you, the Committee have raised the subject of what is an appropriate ratio for allocating funds to social and economic programmes. The Northern Ireland Partnership Board fully accepts and recognises and indeed supports the need to address the economic opportunities arising from peace. But our view is that there must be a balance between social and economic activities. The need for reconciliation remains vital and must be recognised within the allocation.
9. On the issue of delivery mechanisms, we have said in our reply to you that we consider that there should continue to be a mix of departments, intermediary funding bodies and partnerships involved in the new programme. The district partnerships were particularly visible in Peace I and as I have indicated, we want to be able to build on their success and develop strategic structures which still relate to the local community.
10. As regards gap funding, we are aware that there is a problem in the community with funding coming to an end, but because the district partnership programme is back end loaded our spend will continue until at least the summer of 2001. So it is not a particular problem for the partnerships.
11. Finally you have asked about the self sufficiency of projects at the end of Peace II. Sustainability of programmes was a key criterion for all funders including the partnerships within Peace I and it needs to be a vital element of Peace II also. As I have outlined to you already, the new strategic partnerships hope to lay a foundation stone for integrated development which will bring on board mainstream funders perhaps over the years ahead and address the sustainability question head-on. That is the end of our introduction.
12. The Chairman: Just to thank you very much for your presentation, we also would like to ask some of the questions following on from that.
13. In your own submission you stress the need for social and economic activities to be addressed in Peace II, which we accept also. Could you explain why you think the current proposal of allocation is unbalanced? Also how you would like to see the balance or could you set a ratio for that?
14. Mr McAleavey: We do think there is an imbalance in terms of Peace II. We think that Peace II, as the European Commission and a lot of us have lobbied for it, is about peace and reconciliation. It has to tackle a very broad range of activities in Northern Ireland. We think it has to be complimentary to other programmes like the Objective 1 Transition programme and indeed Northern Ireland Public Expenditure. Peace II should not be seen on its own. It should be seen in light of the other two.
15. Last time round there was about a 50/50 split between economic development and social inclusion, that has gone down this time. In terms of our side of the argument, we don't want to be seen exclusively on the social side of the argument. We think the economic measures are very important, but they are heavily weighted by other activities in terms of Public Expenditure and Objective 1 Transition. The social inclusion or social policy end in it has been in effect reduced in the transition of Peace II. It is down in our estimation to about 34% of the programme. So we think that there is a need to achieve a greater balance.
16. We have shied away from actually putting a figure on that simply because we think there is merit in trying to see the two issues together. So we have tried to shy away simply because the argument would just focus around the amount and we want to see a fairly rounded programme in Peace II that will tackle the underlying issue of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, they are social and economic. So I suppose we are trying to avoid putting that figure on it, but we think it should be between what is on offer and what we had the last time round.
17. The Chairman: Do you have any suggestions for addressing that?
18. Mr McAleavey: The Northern Ireland Partnership Board has made its submission to the Department of Finance and Personnel in terms of what it sees as the priorities. It has made some suggestions as to some activities, like transport which would be better handled within Objective 1 transition than peace. We have laid that out in terms of things that we think sit better elsewhere.
19. Mr Leslie: In your submission you said: "It must be recognised that economic rejuvenation alone cannot solve all our problems." I wouldn't suggest that it can alone. It probably is the single most important factor. I wonder if you would agree with that?
20. Mr McAleavey: We agree with that certainly, and that is why I am saying we are not trying to be caught offside on one side of the argument. We agree with that, but we are looking for balance. One of the things that we would point to is economic development that is taking place in the Republic of Ireland where we have seen an average growth of 8%. There are still particular difficulties with regard to social inclusion and we think there are even more difficulties in Northern Ireland terms that need to be addressed from the conflict.
21. Mr Leslie: Economic rejuvenation is one that is relatively easy to measure the output. What other methods do you have for measuring the output? It is easy enough to see it is only as much as you put in and I know that some of what comes out is not tangible in money terms. What method do you have for judging the value of the output?
22. Mr Ferguson: One of the ways we measured the impact and the effectiveness in the local delivery mechanisms, was the increase of 1,000 jobs. One of the reasons that we are asking for a similar allocation is to ensure the sustainability of those jobs in those projects at the end of Peace II. One of the implicit concerns of the economic skew is to ensure that Peace II money, or that part of money, is not used to facilitate central government responsibilities. So we see the work that has been done through Peace I in the creation of jobs that is sufficient evidence that we are actually addressing social economic regeneration which is needed, which the funding was provided for.
23. Mr Gillen: Can I add something? The economic regeneration is obviously extremely important, economic growth is important. But if it is not linked to jobs, it doesn't do an awful lot. If it doesn't tackle the issues of inequality in our community, if it doesn't look at the question of long-term unemployment, if it doesn't reach out to marginalised communities, which is what Peace II is about.
24. At a Fermanagh conference earlier on this year, Esben Poulson made that clear that Peace II money is there, the peace issue still rests with us. Some of us had the opportunity to talk to the Enterprise, Trade and Industry Committee, competitiveness is a big issue for Northern Ireland and increased productivity.
25. Seamus was making the linkage earlier on between the transitional programme on public expenditure and Peace II that they should be complementary. We are particularly exercised to do everything we can to ensure that Peace II money is not used for PE cover and is not used to do things that should be part of either PE or Objective 1 Transition.
26. I think it is worth putting on the record that we remain extremely concerned that is possible. I could name two projects to you, just off the top of my head; one is the gas pipeline which we support, fully support the gas pipeline to the north west, but we don't think it is a legitimate draw down on Peace II.
27. The Dublin Road is obviously very, very useful and also going to be much more topical given some of the reports that are coming out of the DRD about pot holes and issues like that. We are keen to play a full part but we are also anxious to ensure that the money which has been given by Europe to Northern Ireland for Peace II, is used for the purpose which it was set out to do. This will become more important with enlargement because people within European Countries are watching us very, very closely to see what we do with Peace II money. If they feel it is not being used to address the issues that the fund was set up to address, they are going to become critical. There is an onus on us collectively to ensure that doesn't happen.
28. Mr Hussey: Can I just come back to the comment, I thought you were rather disparaging with regard to the DRD report on pot holes etcetera, it was an item which is very important to the rural community but I feel that I have to say, I have to come back on that.
29. Mr Gillen: I would apologise to the Committee if that is the impression I gave, it was not intended. I think it is the measure of the problem that we have. It is a major issue, but it just shows you what the difficulty is with public expenditure and where it is going to be directed. Again I was not being disparaging, if I gave that impression in any shape or form I do apologise now.
30. Mr Hussey: I accept that and I welcome the fact that you are admitting that it is a major issue. Peace II, the communique that we received from the Minister regarding their visit to Brussels etcetera and the acquiring of funding very much stressed on sustainability and inclusion. I have queried the degree of sustainability as an assessment measure within awards that are made to various groups. I have encountered projects for example, which have been set up under Peace 1 and at some stage or other they then come along with an approach to the local councils to assist their sustainability. There is obviously a problem there which has to be addressed.
31. With regard to inclusion, there is, whether it be a perception or actuality, the thought that within awards that are being made there is an imbalance in awards between the two parts of our community, namely the Protestant and Catholic communities.
32. The Deputy First Minister has admitted to that, his feeling is that the Catholic community has been better geared to avail of the funds coming through. That is a concern and how would you see that being addressed under Peace II? Would you say that there is perhaps a need for a pro-active role in encouraging the Protestant community to avail of funds and various projects?
33. Mr Ferguson: Local district partnerships have been very pro-active, for example in employing more staff to ensure that those pockets of deprivation that have been missed will be included in the next phase of money. But if I am not mistaken, a retrospective evaluation of the allocation of funding showed in actual fact that those areas that were worse disadvantaged, worst deprived, got less than their quota. I am not too sure where we are getting our facts. Retrospective studies have showed that is the case and perhaps those facts are somewhat inaccurate.
34. Mr Hussey: I am speaking from the perspective of the district council I come from, which is Strabane.
35. Mr McAleavey: Can I say in terms of adding to that, there was a concern raised in terms of allocations under peace and particularly to the Protestant community in terms under representation. The Northern Ireland Partnership Board had an extensive debate around that issue before the midterm review of Peace I and began to take some action. It recognised that in terms of community infrastructure there was less of it, less of a history within the Protestant community than within the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Partnership Board began to move partnerships to take a more strategic view of how they used their funds rather than one that was application driven. It is recognised that you can only fund the applications received and a much higher number of applications coming from the Catholic community, because there were community organisations in existence for quite some time.
36. We also drew on some of the work that was done by some community workers, community development in Protestant areas which we have recognised these issues as well.
37. Belfast European partnership in particular, began to take this ring fencing view of how it would disperse funds and do things in a pro-active way, not to sit and wait. If the applications don't come, there is not much you can do if you take it from that perspective. There was a fair bit done in terms of trying to correct that.
38. There was a fair amount of work put in to capacity building, particularly in Protestant areas. One of the issues that now arises is if there is a reduction of funds it will make it particularly difficult for some people in those areas, if capacity has been risen, but there is nothing there. If the well has become dry next time round. That will be a concern that we would have. I know that concern has been raised by others.
39. Mr Gillen: They are still catching up.
40. Mr Hussey: I welcome the second point and the attempts to increase the capacity to be geared to achieve projects and benefit from a future programme and I see where you are coming from with regards to Peace II and I hope that the capacity can be met. One final one if I may, you did refer to the position of partnerships with regard to sub-regional development. Could that be perceived as taking on board some of the responsibilities that would lie within the remit of the local district councils?
41. Mrs Keegan: I think the idea with the new partnerships in the next round is, we would try and get all the key players involved within Peace II and perhaps beyond. Obviously a very key player in any area would be the district council. I think the idea is to get them on board, get them talking to other players.
42. Mr Hussey: Would the district council not be the key player?
43. Mrs Keegan: It would be an important player. I can see it having a key role, if I can put it that way. I think the council has a key role in the local development generally. I would see it establishing the partnership, taking the partnerships forward and perhaps put together the strategy development plan. I think all the other players who have been at the table before within Peace I, will want to bring that experience and expertise with them into Peace II and contribute equally, if I can put it that way. The council obviously has a key role to play and as I said, I think, in our submission, the local economic development monies lie within Peace II, that wasn't the case as you are well aware, last time around. I think all the people are going to be at the table.
44. What we would like to see is that relationships are built and we talk to each other. We have four years with this programme. I don't think it is going to happen at once, that everybody is going to come together and co-ordinate and get things done. I think it is going to take time and trust will have to be built up.
45. In discussions that we have had with the councils over the last couple of months, I think we are singing from the same hymn sheet.
46. Mr Hussey: There should be continuity.
47. Mrs Keegan: Absolutely. We have been saying that, but I think what we are trying to do is take the best we have had before but just move on a little bit to try to make it better. To do that you have got to bring people together and co-ordinate. I think we all admit that didn't happen last time but we will try and help it happen next time if we can.
48. Mr Gibson: Why should we trust you with £71 million? Do you think your credibility has been seriously damaged by the Poulsen report the other night, where Europe is getting very concerned about the funding and called the Prime Minister and his Deputy over to Brussels to say that this money was going to require a more intensive audit; it was going to require a greater accountability. Therefore that puts a question mark over credibility. Thinking of our community where finances are very scarce, then the question of credibility becomes very important.
49. The second question is, and Derek has already alluded to it, you are viewed in West Tyrone as being extremely partisan, and instead of creating peace and reconciliation you are seen as being a Catholic board for Catholic people, and such an exclusivity has been seen as excluding the Protestant community. I would like to see the audit figures as to how those were done.
50. You see, the word partnership is a good word but it is also a word that can equally be abused to the point where it becomes an obscene word, where we have Europe and the auditors of Europe questioning the integrity. I think there is a real job. We do have another responsibility, who becomes the purveyor of £71 million. Those, I think, are the real questions that we have got to examine.
51. Mr McAleavey: In terms of accountability and credibility and trust, in terms of the control of public funds, I think the District Partnerships, the Northern Ireland Partnership Board has proved itself well. In terms of the programme you mention, its focus was on, I think, other areas not under the control of the Northern Ireland Partnership Board or the District Partnerships. In terms of the Court of Auditors Report, which I did get a copy of and read, it didn't cover anything that was under the control of the Northern Ireland Partnership Board but did refer to Government departments and some of the funding carried out there.
52. The Northern Ireland Partnership Board scrutinises the District Partnerships very very closely and has laid a big emphasis on an independent body being able to be answerable for public funds, as good as if not better than Government departments. Some of the partnerships have complained about that being very very close scrutiny, but it has ensured that there have been absolutely no financial troubles whatsoever across the partnership. I think on the money side in terms of financial accountability, there is a lot of credibility there, and the evidence is there for you as public representatives and for the European Commission to place trust in the NIPB.
53. In terms of the partisan nature, I think partnerships are neither Catholic nor Protestant. They have been carefully constructed to ensure that there is representation from all the political parties locally on those partnerships. My own organisation, the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, nominates people from the voluntary and community sector, and we are particularly careful to ensure that there is balance in terms of the communities, in terms of types of organisations that people come from that we put forward in terms of the geographic spread, in terms of the District Council area to try to get a reasonably balanced partnership. I believe that the other sectors are doing that as well.
54. Sometimes there is difficulty in terms of people's attendance at the partnerships which may then cause imbalances to take place, but in terms of how the partnerships are constructed I think we have done quite a lot on that. If there are serious problems that arise in terms of perceptions, particularly that one of how it was perceived that the Protestant communities were being neglected, we have tried to do things to address that. We have tried to do that in a very open, transparent, and upfront way. I think the partnerships are credible in terms that there may always be incidents or particular problems at a local level, but I think in general they are credible in terms of trying to do things in a way that is inclusive and that doesn't exclude one community or other. I think they do reflect the make-up of each particular District Council area.
55. Mrs Keegan: May I just add something, if you don't mind, about accountability just for the Committee's benefit. The Northern Ireland Audit Office has been in and has looked at the books of the NIPB and some of the District Partnerships. The Department of Social Development internal auditors have also been with us, and so have the European Court of Auditors. It is useful, perhaps to say that the District Partnerships, in looking after their accounts and financial management, the majority of them actually use service level agreements with the District Councils. The Partnerships are actually able to call upon the experience and expertise of the District Councils. And that gives us comfort and a good degree of credibility. I thought perhaps that was a good point to make.
56. Mr Gibson: Thank you for your answers, and I am very grateful for the length that you went to to explain that. In West Tyrone, and the Strabane Council, and the Omagh Council where I sit, and in parts of Belfast, convince me, because the results at the moment need examination. What is more I have great trouble with my community in convincing them. What is more when some of the members have seen their project deliberately voted down on a sectarian basis, you don't have to go twice to get your head chopped off. That is something that you have got to deal with, otherwise we can no longer continue to trust. It is as simple as that.
57. Mr Gillen: May I say if that is the case, I think we would be very very upset and disturbed by that. Certainly any evidence that is available and is forwarded to the Partnership Board we will look at it very rigorously.
58. Mr Gibson: Certainly you will get an opportunity of examining that, and we will certainly be unashamed to present it ourselves.
59. Mr B Bell: Just to follow on from that, I am Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee here and I am aware that the Audit Office did do that audit. As far as I am concerned I am satisfied about the credibility of the partnership. I see where Oliver is coming from because there is this perception, and in fact I have spoken to the Board before about this, there is a perception that the Protestant community is not getting its fair share.
60. I feel that the reason for this is that the Protestant community is not making the applications. I raised this matter with you before, and I think it was agreed that there should be some form of educational process put into place whereby the Protestant community could be encouraged to put more applications in, because I think this is the problem.
61. I think we were assured at that time that you would encourage this. What have you done to encourage that?
62. Mrs Keegan: A lot of the partnerships have actually put in place, I think perhaps Michael mentioned it, what they call development workers to try and actually go out with the Protestant community and take them through applications. Really what we wanted to see was perhaps the Protestant community getting away from very small grants, because when we had looked at what had come in from the Protestant community it was perhaps application for £5,000 and £10,000, which was maybe not doing too much, let's face it. We wanted to try to get them to look strategically at work that could be done within their area. We thought that maybe an education process could be put in place, so development workers are in place in a lot of the partnerships, although not all. I have to be honest and say not all.
63. Mr B Bell: As long as it is being addressed, that is the main thing.
64. Mrs Keegan: It does come up in practically every Partnership Board meeting that we would have, and some of our own members who sit on the Northern Ireland Partnership Board do raise it with us. It is something that we take seriously.
65. Mr B Bell: Just to get back to the Chairman's first question, he and I are on the same wavelength on this, that is about the economic and social development aspect. You seem to be saying that there is this imbalance. The Chairman asked you what remedies you would propose, and I may have missed it but I didn't catch what remedies you were proposing could be put in place to address that, because I'm one of those people who believe that economic development is not only important to social development but it is the key to it. I think that would be the view of this Committee, that is why I am asking that question now.
66. Mr McAleavey: Maybe I just need to raise again what we said. We also agree that economic development is actually very important and is the key to social inclusion. As Tom said, unemployed people getting jobs is the one of the most important things that could happen. I have come from an area where there is historically very high unemployment, and know and understand that point. In terms of making judgments and assessing the worth of things, I think you do have to look at the audit report and see that quite often we have done very badly in terms of retaining jobs, by the amount of money that has been spent on economic development. We have seen the Audit Office reports with regard to the IDB.
67. I don't think it is as simple as saying if we do increase investment there we necessarily get the return that we would expect. I know it appears easier to measure, but sometimes when you look a bit closer you find that the results aren't there.
68. We are saying that there needs to be a focus on communities in terms of social development to try to bring them up to the standard where they can compete with others. That is why we think there needs to be a tilt in this programme back a bit more towards the social inclusion side, because it is a huge amount of money in the programme but it is a small amount of money when you compare it to public expenditure at large. The other money that is in Objective 1 Transition and Peace II is carrying the burden, I think, of some of the social policy spending.
69. Mr Ferguson: Just to follow up on that, I would like to welcome the speaker's acknowledgment of the credibility of the partnership approach to the distribution of funding and its accountability in auditing. Just to follow up on that, I agree with what Seamus said, there needs to be first of all a more complementary approach to funding to ensure that there is economic development. It is a perception as well that Peace II money is being used to facilitate central government responsibility funding. But if we did have a more integrated approach and a more complementary approach, I think we might see greater economic development.
70. The Chairman: Is there a mechanism or an encouragement that the partnership will actually create, where you will get economic development of social programmes so you will actually get a mixture of community business? I think one of the disappointments of all this is that it is not a really developed community business as such, so that you have sustainability and an actual result in a sense.
71. Mr McAleavey: I think absolutely, Chairman. Why we don't want to get into the sort of dog fight between the economic and social measure, I think, as you say, there is significant overlap between these things. There will be social benefits from the economic benefits out of Peace II and there will be economic benefits out of the social. We do see them going together. There is a significant overlap there. That is why we try to avoid the dog fights between the two of them.
72. Mr Maskey: What I am concerned about is, as you say, Seamus, about not getting into a dog fight although I think it is an important principle to argue that everything in terms of Peace II should not be measured against sustainability or economic development. In fact, you would probably argue that in terms of the programme itself there are a lot more other important principles that need to be enshrined and incorporated. I would be concerned to hear your views on not individual projects or specific projects, but the need to maintain a focus on P&R and that kind of work, which doesn't have an economic development side to it but is still necessary work that needs to be done. I would argue, too many would not disagree, but really the mainstream departments have not been given any extra money to deal with coming out of conflict and all the rest of it. So the kind of Peace money the last number of years has been trying to catch up on a lot of things that haven't happened for the last number of years. I would be just curious to hear your views on the kind of project, and the need for support for projects that don't have sustainable jobs at the end of it but perhaps the process is more important.
73. Mr McAleavey: Certainly we think this is a very important issue. This project is about peace and reconciliation. We think that is very difficult for the Northern Ireland Partnership Board to focus its attention on what partnerships exactly should be doing with regard to promoting peace and developing reconciliation. Everybody knows that is a huge task that in itself and will have its own economic title in terms of making Northern Ireland a much more attractive place for inward involvement.
74. We recognise clearly that the programme is designed to aid Northern Ireland out of that post conflict situation that you talk about. One of the measures has to be the strengthening of communities in terms of community development in Northern Ireland. We believe that where communities are strengthened, where they are more confident and outgoing in themselves, they find it far easier to reach across to the other community, and it makes them much more attractive places to live, that you can have some investment in the social capital.
75. People talk about the fabric of society breaking down. We need to address those problems, we need to address the problems of drugs and issues of social exclusion that the European community talks about. That will feed into the economic measures. But I think you are right, they could be measured in themselves as achievements out of this programme.
76. The Chairman: First of all, to thank the Committee. I know that there will be many other questions coming out of this. I was glad to hear in response to Mr Derek Hussey that actually you are going to help us fill in our potholes because it is a local issue that we have. Again to thank you for coming along here. We have the various different groups coming today. We will be recording and preparing a report on that and we will offer you a copy of that report. Thank you very much.
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Thursday 29 June 2000
Mr Molloy (Chairman)
Ms A Kilmurray )
77. The Chairman: You are welcome, Avila and James, to the Committee today. Again we will go through the same process, I'll allow a 10 minute presentation and then questions.
78. I apologise again the sound in here is very bad, but if you can just keep your voices up.
79. Ms Kilmurray: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Just to start, in terms of background the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust was established in 1979 (we are actually 21 this year), as an independent grant-making trust. We were set up as a community foundation for Northern Ireland to provide an indigenous funder for community development in Northern Ireland. Since 1979 our trustees have been 50/50 Catholic/Protestant, in recognition that we are serving a divided society.
80. In terms of Peace I the Trust was asked to be an intermediate funding mechanism under the Peace I programme, and I suppose one of the reasons that we were approached was first of all our experience as a funder, and secondly because of our involvement in community development.
81. Over the period of the Peace I programme we have distributed some £41.8 million across three main measures, 4:1 the community development measure, 4:4 the support for vulnerable groups and 3:4 which is a cross-border reconciliation measure in which we worked in partnership with the Combat Poverty Agency and ADM. Over that time we have distributed 2,432 grants and we have dealt with 4,240 applications.
82. We recognised that there was going to be a social inclusion programme and we expanded the decision-making involvement to have nine advisory committees, which included 111 people across Northern Ireland. We asked the community groups and the self-help groups to nominate these people to give us a broader involvement in the actual decision-making process. To state the quantification, they actually give 6,660 hours of voluntary time.
83. I think one of the things we want to do before going into Peace II is to recognise and acknowledge the huge amount of the work that has taken place in communities under Peace I. There has been a massive amount of work, not just in terms of groups that we have funded but the projects that have been funded by all the different funding mechanisms.
84. We carried out an evaluation of the groups we funded and 82% of them said that although many of them were working in what we call single identity areas, the funding enabled them to come in contact with people from other communities around common issues, and 74% said that this was new for them in the last three years.
85. If we calculate that as a very conservative estimate, we are talking about 25,000 people being involved in that area, on average about 10 volunteers per project. As I say that is a conservative estimate because many of them have a lot more volunteers than that.
86. In terms of the important issues that you posed as a Committee in terms of Peace II, I think again a bit like the last delegation (I didn't cog outside) we also believe that we need to see Peace II, first of all in the overall context of the European funds that will be coming in over the next five years in the Transition and Peace II together. We also see social and economic development as interdependent, we don't seem them in separate boxes. I think it is very difficult and injurious for Northern Ireland if we see that. We see them as a continuum.
87. We particularly see social inclusion and community development approaches actually enabling communities that have been marginalised, excluded and disadvantaged to build confidence and building the capacity to become involved in hopefully developing and growing economic areas.
88. I suppose in terms of our breakdown we would see that the transitional programme should be focused on competitiveness and the external cohesion of our economy to ensure that we have a firm economic base at the end of the term of European funding. We know that it is unlikely that we will ever get as much European funding again.
89. Peace II we see as really having to focus on internal cohesion and reconciliation. In other words, focusing on the people and areas most affected by the conflict. That is our understanding of why Europe has given it. Basically even casting back to one of the consultation seminars that the Department of Finance held in Enniskillen Esben Poulsen asked what there is about the added value of peace building and reconciliation that can justify Peace II? We think that is very important.
90. So we need a balanced approach to create an environment within which the economy can prosper and which can promote social inclusion and sustainability.
91. In terms of delivery mechanisms, again NIVT would agree with what Brussels often say, that form must follow function. We need to see what we are going to do and then create structures that can do it. The trust has actually attempted over the last couple of months to set out what it sees as its function in the draft strategic document that I think we circulated in the pack we made available to the Committee members - 'Driving Social Change'. We looked at what we had been doing over the last three or four years and said we do not want to do it all again. What we want to do is almost deconstruct community development into its elements and see where can we bring in added value.
92. The areas that we saw we could bring added value to was in working in areas of weak community infrastructure, in work with marginalised groups, with the victims of violence, ex-prisoner groups, work with the empowerment of the local women's groups, again where we have an experience going back over 21 years, and particularly I think in regional networking because we feel it is very important to have low key mechanisms such as partnerships. But there are also added values in being able to bring people together and draw models of good practice from Strabane up to Fermanagh up to Ballymena.
93. In short, we feel that there is a place for the three types of delivery mechanisms - the intermediary funding bodies, the partnerships, and the Government departments in some cases, but we accept that there needs to be greater clarity and co-ordination between them both strategically and operationally. We have a better chance to get that in Peace II, because in Peace I, while we had been going as a funder, we made our first grants within two months of becoming an IFB, but other mechanisms were setting up for the first time so we were actually operating in different timescales. At least now we are all starting from a common baseline and a common experience.
94. In terms of the funding gap, I think NIVT is probably one of the mechanisms that is responsible for the funding gap because we stuck by the rules and we actually allocated all our funding, and we told our projects that really they should be ending in last summer/early autumn, or in very few cases in December. Consequently, we have got a funding gap with some of our projects. They are coming to an end. We feel that it is important if possible that that should be addressed. Whenever we allocated our funding we had hoped that Peace II had been decided in early 2000, so you wouldn't have had that gap. As it happens the negotiations have obviously gone on much longer than we envisaged, so we do feel that it is counterproductive to let good projects fall and then try to re-establish them because you will build up expectations and then dash them.
95. Finally in terms of sustainability, again we feel that it is a very important issue. We produced publications for our funding groups on it. We have had a whole series of regional seminars across Northern Ireland. We feel that it has to be looked at, though. It is not just a matter of community based projects being able to generate their own finances. Hopefully that will happen with some but it will not happen with all of them. I think we need to look at a whole range of issues around sustainability - the possibility of more partnerships, less independent groups, groups coming together to work for a wider area, the possibility of consolidation, the possibility of mainstreaming, certainly mainstreaming by Government departments. At the moment we are carrying out a study of the women's sector because it does not have a home within the Government departments as it stands. Also recognising that some of the issues will be time-limited, and perhaps two or three years funding is what they will need and they will make a valuable contribution with that.
96. The Trust, from its own point of view, we will be here beyond 2005. We are looking at our sustainability so that we will be in a position to help continue to fund groups after the Peace Programme.
97. The Chairman: Thank you very much. One thing I am interested in myself, one of the main points the Committee has raised both with the Minister and with the European representatives that were here a fortnight ago, was the whole issue of the funding gap. You say a figure of £1.5 million is the gap. Is there any further evidence that you could give the Committee even after today, that would give the detail of that, so we could look at that?
98. Ms Kilmurray: Absolutely we have broken it down by project in terms of estimation so we can give the number of community projects, women projects, whatever. In fairness the Department of Social Development have worked very closely with us at looking at those needs and also a number of other intermediary funding bodies who will be in the same situation. There has been active discussion in relation to that.
99. The Chairman: That will be important in relation to the Committee itself and the Finance and Personnel Minister.
100. Mr Leslie: You mention the issue of sustainability, I think you come back to this sustainability, also at the same time you said there has got to be collective responsibility. Why have we got all these different funding bodies then, surely they are responsible to their own particular issues. That is their first priority. They are not going to be somebody else's and I wonder whether in terms this being the last funding programme and the allocation to take place. Actually winding up the funding bodies before winding up the money and I wonder, you have been going since well before the other money arrived, you should be able to exist after it. It is not necessarily true of some of the others and I wonder if you have any comment on that?
101. Ms Kilmurray: First of all I would like to hope that we wouldn't be just looking after our own specific areas of interests. We are all committed to having a sustainable Northern Ireland in terms of both economic and social sustainability. In fact we will be taking part in a broader discussion about this issue across areas, not just in community development. I noticed in the current PricewaterhouseCoopers, 'Northern Ireland Economic Review and Prospects 2000', 48% of companies with over 100 employees see grant aid as the greatest potential contribution from the Government. It is not just something for the community sector. It is something for Northern Ireland society as a whole.
102. I do accept however, that we have, if you like, let 1000 flowers bloom to an extent with the Peace I programme. I think what we have actually seen is a huge increase in engagement of local people in activity, community based activity. In some cases community economic development activity and hopefully we are now in a better situation with Peace II to be actually sitting down with those people, as we are doing with all our groups at the moment, and saying, okay, we know what the potential is here, how can we now plan in a strategic way to use the funding for the next four or five years to actually get to a stage where either it is in part self-financing or there is a natural home for it, perhaps within the government. You have to remember you are talking in some cases of community care, approaches to health which may well sit within Government departments, approaches to life long learning, approaches to new technology, all being done at community level.
103. There is a whole discussion which needs to take place in terms of interface between those groups and further education colleges, that is the sort of work we can do alongside the funding over the next four year period.
104. Mr Leslie: Your statistics that you quote on the attitude of business towards Government providing grants. On the whole I see that as a problem. I think that is an indictment on the dependency culture which is terrible and it seems to me that we have to be, partly of consequence, economic necessity driven here. We need to be in a programme, and I don't mean that literally, we need to be in a process that has an objective of reducing dependency.
105. Ms Kilmurray: We can do that in a shared way by taking both sides of the coin and looking as you say at that culture that has grown and say what are the options there, what else can we put in place. That is the challenge of the next four years.
106. Mr Maskey: I think in a sense further to that, because I understand that Mr Leslie's point has been consistently that there is a dependency factor there and the funds are going to run out in the year, whatever it is going to be, so people need to be operating down. I come at it from another view, not ruling out James' view on it entirely, I think in terms of the peace money and all the rest of it, the structural funds should be about obviously addressing needs that are there which have been clearly identified and obviously you would like to think that people would measure their success by the fact they worked themselves out of a job in two or three years and perhaps move on. The whole process has been about precisely what you have said, to encourage a lot of other activity to go on within the community which is about participation, which is about inclusion. I think that is a good measurement in a way.
107. I know that in itself this puts on greater strains and extra demands but I think those extra demands have to be dealt with by the community as a whole, as a political representative and so on. Therefore, I don't think we should be afraid of people by virtue of the work they have been doing funded by people like yourselves and others through Europe. I wouldn't worry about that extra demand but I would worry about, as a representative, how do we locate that demand in its rightful place. We are finding constituency by constituency that good work is going on at community level, people have been empowered in communities, some maybe better than others. There is a bit of imbalance, that is okay, we can work at that. At the same time while those demands are increasing, people are getting themselves more involved which is helping the overall project of peace building. Whilst at the same time the Government departments for which we are now responsible, are actually cutting back hand over fist. In a sense the communities are getting empowered to do more work and they are getting increasingly less resources to actually do work. I think that is the problem we have got to deal with.
108. I am wondering in terms of IFB, yourselves and others, is there a role that you think that you have in terms of trying to constantly remind people that is an outcome, the demand has been increasing, because people have been doing very, very good work and have been encouraged to do so by the funds they have been getting. A lot could actually run aground because the resources are not there to meet continued need.
109. How do you co-relate with the other agencies including councils? This is a political argument in a sense. Maybe my view would be different from some other members about councils taking a lead, I don't think they should, but I think they have to be very much involved. So councils and other bodies and so on, need to work together. Again, how do people co-ordinate strategies which at the end of the day point up the need and let us all try and collectively locate where the demand should be in the future?
110. Dr Magowan: We have been very conscious of this right from the outset of Peace I. At that time it was never envisaged that there would be a Peace II. We were well aware the programme was going to terminate and it was envisaged it would be terminating about now. We would not have envisaged being in the position of thinking about a gap; we were thinking about an end.
111. This relates to the issue of sustainability and where that demand is located. I think it links to the point of the function of the organisation. NIVT selected as an intermediary funding body, was selected because it could do something rather unique and other bodies with appropriate delivery mechanisms were selected because of their unique capabilities in certain areas of work. Our uniqueness, we stated at that time was around playing a strong developmental role with groups, very often being the first funder, the risk funder in areas where funding had not pervaded before. Some of that leads to building the capacity of those organisations and they then can move on and locate the demand elsewhere appropriately.
112. Some projects have a simple life cycle. It finishes, things move on, others can build the capacity themselves to become more self-financing. As we discussed earlier there are activities that can never be self-financing. As we have referred to in our paper, we are dealing with not only market failures but public sector failures and how to address those gaps in society.
113. That is why in setting our strategy we set a ten-year framework well beyond the life of the peace programme. We see a role for ourselves beyond Peace II to enable much of the work that will be continued in Peace II and developed in Peace II in a new environment in Peace II. That there still will be a demand for some of that type of work beyond the end of the next peace programme. We are trying to position ourselves to still be there to meet the need in the longer run.
114. Mr Hussey: I am coming back on to the funding gap from a point that I have raised with the previous group. I appreciate the point that was made by the previous group, maybe it is wrong to revert to them in capacity building requirement. I hear the same thing coming through from NIVT that there has been that, but would you not agree that the empowerment, the capacity building has been slower to achieve on the Protestant side of the community, again due to the ethos or whatever of that particular part of the community that has been slower to build. Therefore, if you look to the past scenario first where you have identified the £1.5 million funding gap, the likelihood of that is it is going to those who have been up and going. It is right to say you want to keep that going. That takes out of the pool that is available in the second part, Peace II.
115. Is there a danger that you have empowered capacity built groups who haven't got into the major funding but are beginning to attain that capacity to come into the funding of phase 2, to suddenly find you have taken so much out that there isn't that much left for them and therefore, you effectively have continued the imbalance whether perceived or actual, that people are concerned about?
116. Ms Kilmurray: I think it is a fair point. There are a couple of points. In terms of the differential development issue, I would accept that, as the last delegation said, there is an issue in terms of generating applications and fundable applications from Protestant areas. The issue of weak infrastructure is not purely for Protestant areas, in fact NIVT was concerned about this after looking at its funding over the past 21 years. In 1994 we got funding to set up a programme that worked in eight areas of weak infrastructure over the last five years. They included places like Larne, Strabane and Gilford, a range of different places as well as Taughmonagh and so forth. What we found in fact was first of all it is a problem in terms of short-term funding programmes, it is not just a matter of throwing funding at areas, it is a matter of putting in the skilled work and it takes time. In fact throwing a lot of funding in those areas can cause more havoc, it can split the groups that are there and they spend the time arguing among themselves.
117. The approach that we have taken, is that the importance of small grants and incremental grants is very important so that you can actually grow the work at a pace where it can become rooted and not throwing money at it in order to make an artificial balance.
118. We would take the point that it is very important in terms of that sort of continuation that the work in those areas doesn't fall by the board because they are the very areas that people will say we tried something and suddenly the rug is pulled from under our feet. We are not going to try it again. At whatever level, albeit perhaps small amounts of monies for those groups, it is very important that they are allowed to continue.
119. It is interesting looking at our figures in terms of the breakdown of the perceived Catholic and Protestant areas; it was 12.5 million would have went into perceived Catholic areas, 10 million into perceived Protestant areas, and 20 million to mixed groups. We forget we have funded a lot of groups of both religions, not just either or.
120. What we have done is, alongside the specific work that we had done and evaluated in areas of community infrastructure, we are talking to the interdepartmental group that the Department of Social Development have pulled together around that. There are specific support needs and we have employed workers to work with specific groups. For example, the victims groups that were slow in coming forward. We have employed a worker purely to work with them and again recognising that it is as much about the expertise and the confidence building as it is funding.
121. Also, there is the element that Seamus referred to earlier. Perhaps different approaches to community development are needed. There is the fact that different communities were slower perhaps in coming forward than others depending on how they assessed the peace process was going on. They felt, look we are not sure about what the framework is why should we be taking the risk on the ground. In essence we have had some groups coming forward only in the last year.
122. Mr Hussey: As a quick follow on, that being the scenario, how do you see the balance being maintained if an economic criteria takes precedence?
123. Ms Kilmurray: That is a real problem. It is those groups and areas of weak community infrastructure that won't be able to fulfil the criteria if you put a hard and fast sustainability economic criteria in terms of your selection priorities. To be honest, going into some of the communities we go into, you are starting to get people to run summer schemes and run festivals and trying to get people out of the house, to build up the confidence that they can go on to mother and toddler groups etcetera. That is the level, but you can't fast forward that. To actually go in and say here is £2 million to build an economic development centre, it will just sit idle. It will be a waste of money. I really do think for those areas we perhaps need different selection priorities.
124. Dr Magowan: By creating a community infrastructure and building social capital through that type of funding, it is creating an environment in which there is potential for economic opportunity. This is where we do see the inextricable link between the two. There is no point doing one unless it can linked to the other and vice versa.
125. Mr B Bell: I am on the same question of economic development. Like the other group you are saying that there ought to be a balance between the two, and yet the phrase "economic development" seems to scare the life out of people. I just wonder why, I think that economic development is the key to social development. I wonder why you are running scared of it, to use a cliche, but maybe you could answer that.
126. I want to ask a question also about the Protestant thing because it comes into all these areas. There is no doubt that the Protestant community are not getting their fair share of the funding but that is not your fault, I am not saying it is. I believe it is the fault of the Protestant community themselves. Maybe "fault" is the wrong word, because of the ethos or whatever, I don't know, the Catholic community seem to be better organised, I don't know why, maybe it is because they have a strong parish system throughout the church and all this. But there does seem to me to be a reluctance in the Protestant community to make applications.
127. What can you do to encourage that, to encourage Protestant people who deserve no more than Catholics, but who deserve no less, what would your organisation be doing to encourage that?
128. Dr Magowan: Can I answer the first of those two parts on the economic and social. We are not far apart on this really. We are not running scared of economic development at all, but it is our firm belief that there needs to be an appropriate balance, meaning the creation of an environment through investment in social cohesion, and creating that environment in which the economic development opportunity can flourish and everybody be able to contribute to or benefit from that economic opportunity.
129. To have a programme that is very skewed strongly towards economic investment, which in time ultimately can contribute towards social inclusion by creation of jobs and so on perhaps, in the society that we are in, in a situation of transition; it is not leaving enough to create that solid foundation on which to base the economic development. We are trying to create the opportunity for that economic development to flourish.
130. Ms Kilmurray: Following on from what James said, I am conscious the IDB have people coming in, in terms of looking for sites, first visitors from overseas in terms of inward investment. What they keep saying is what puts off the Americans coming is the lack of social and political stability. I would see that the Peace II programme should help to create the social economic stability which would enable the economic development and inward investment to foster. As James says, they are mutually supporting, hopefully they can be a virtuous circle rather than a vicious circle.
131. In terms of your second point, first of all our application form is a contact sheet. What we have done as a trust long before the peace programme, we employ our assessment officers who have at least four years community development experience in the field, they go out and sit down with a group and talk them through what they want to do. So it is as much about bringing a sort of development expertise as well as actually looking at the application.
132. We realise if you are going to have convoluted forms it is going to put off the groups that have never applied before and are perhaps not too sure what they want to do. We feel by taking the approach that we do that it enables, particularly for a new group, from an area where there hasn't been much before, it enables our assessment officers to say, if you want to do something about childcare or lone parents or whatever, why don't you talk to so and so in Ballymena or in Strabane that has done it or that has had the problems with it. It is also trying to create interchanges and learning between groups as much as providing courses and seminars and all the rest. I think that is really the way to do it. In terms of areas where literally there are no groups, as I mentioned earlier we have had the work over the last five years in the community infrastructure. We put in workers but we put in workers that were very skilled in community development and they just worked with local people and knocked doors. It is slow, but it is very hard to get away from that sort of approach.
133. Mr Gibson: I have been receiving benefit funding and it is very much appreciated, in a couple of areas, particularly West Tyrone, where we have all sorts of perceptions about funders.
134. The first one I want to go back to is the basic point which I raised with the previous group. The sum of £41 million is considerable and in view of the fact that the First Minister and his deputy were hauled over to Brussels and said there was a serious problem with accounting, we have had all this information coming back from peace money and we are concerned. Obviously they are taking another go at auditing, as to how they are going to go.
135. First of all, why should we trust you as a purveyor of £41 million because Europe could easily turn off the taps as they could turn it on? That is the first question.
136. The second question is, and it is a question that I want to take on board seriously, the west Tyrone community that I represent has been beleaguered for 30 odd years. In other words, I can point before the Omagh bomb to 97 individuals murdered, those communities have been driven into their own communities. They don't come rushing out, they don't come out respecting their neighbours, they know the neighbours could be guilty of some of the atrocities. What can you do to encourage those communities? They are Protestant, they have their churches, their own Orange Halls, the only community infrastructure that is in a remote rural area. Yet that is frowned upon by "reconciliation", words like this.
137. They see this as an indoctrination. What is going to be done to try and bring a community like that because we are helping them to restore normality. That is how they see peace, somewhere were they can go to shop, go to school, go to work without the threat. Those are very basic things and it is a different perspective than what I am hearing from all the people, yet these are people who have been underfunded in actual fact.
138. I have already said, I have been grateful, I got a lot of money from your organisation to help victims. I appreciate that and I belong to five different community groups that I am trying to stimulate. I know you have been useful and I appreciate that. They are not all Protestants, they are very mixed. I want to see the people that I represent helped to recover because they were in essence the people who suffered.
139. Ms Kilmurray: On the first question in terms of the accountability, we have managed to attract seven sets of auditors. We have co-funding departments, DSD, NI0 and the Training and Employment Agency. We have the Northern Ireland Audit Office, we have ESF auditors, we have ERDF auditors, we have the European Court monitor. So we are over audited. In fact one of our real problems, going back to the question about the areas that there are new groups in, and groups that you mentioned is, how we then translate the audit requirement in such a way that it doesn't become totally onerous for the groups. You are getting all these forms for £3,000.
140. The amounts of money that the trust has given out, our development grants are a maximum of £3,000. In most cases, we would be giving out up to £25,000 to £30,000. It is not huge amounts. We are trying to balance that, we take the brunt of it not the groups. It is an issue we are going to have to look at for Peace II. We will put off the very groups that you are talking about in your second question.
141. I totally accept, I am conscious of one of the groups that we are funding, that you mention, the level of activities is at the moment a group is taking women who were bereaved in the Troubles to Belfast for a shopping trip. Everybody raised their eyebrows, but the women weren't in Belfast for the last 20 years. It is recognising that is what Peace II should be all about. It should be picking up those areas that clearly will never fall inside something like a transitional programme, but that do have an impact on people. We have only seen it coming through in the last year.
142. What we have done is twofold. First of all in terms of the Victims we have had two conferences, one this year and one last year, where all victims groups, all survivors groups, however they define themselves, sat down. We have recognised the sensitivities within groups and it is not just one sided, it is on every side. We have employed a full-time worker from after the first conference, to work with the victims groups and she has developed a capacity building programme which will start in September which is working in detail. This raised things like the fact that one of the groups we funded, DPOA, had never come across painting for the disabled. If it had been a member of a disability action group, they would have come across it. Because it was so isolated, it had not.
143. One area of her work is introducing groups to a range of activities. The other area is trying to build some organisational capacity to deal with forms to keep the accountability issue happy.
144. The third area is the work we are doing in terms of looking at the issues that groups have in common and I know that will take a long time for groups to be comfortable with that, they tell me in no uncertain terms that they are not. At the same time we do feel we have to create the framework where groups can come together from across the divide. We recognise that over the next three or four years single identity work will still be a very important area of work.
145. The Chairman: That brings us to the end of our session. I am sure there are plenty more questions. Thank you very much for coming with your distinctive slant, that you actually have played a role over the last 20 years. Thank you very much for your presentation.
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Thursday 29 June 2000
Mr Molloy (Chairman)
Mr M McDonald )
146. The Chairman: Thank you very much for coming, Martin McDonald, Catherine Taggart and Joanna McVey. Again the same procedure as earlier on, we will have the presentation and then throw it open for questions.
147. Mr McDonald: Thank you, Chairman. The RDC is a broad-based partnership representing a range of interests that include the community, business, environmental, agricultural and local Government interests and agencies, so we are very well in tune to the whole debate about what sort of activities are appropriate, whether they be economic or social, and those change of interests are reflected and debated around our table.
148. In partnership with our colleagues within the Rural Community Network, the council acts as an intermediary funding body for measure 2:b:1, which is the Community Based Actions Measure of the Peace Programme, and we have been responsible for the allocation of some £7.8 million to around 610 rural community groups and spend as profiled for completion by June 2001, with spend at this time of around 60%. The Rural IFB Partnership manage the only element of the Peace funds which are open to application and are specifically targeted at rural communities or rural society and sectoral interests.
149. The Council welcome the opportunity to comment on the arrangements for the management of both of the overall European funds, including the Transition and the Peace Programme.
150. The Council are currently happy with the proposed mix on funding priorities with the Transitional Programme and are involved in ongoing consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on the proposed activities and delivery mechanisms within the Agriculture and Rural Development priority.
151. Consultations are ongoing with the Department around the need to allocate appropriate resources to address the cultural diversity of rural areas, and the consequences thereof to the broad rural constituency. The Council believe the most appropriate vehicle is the reallocation of an appropriate amount of EAGGF funds through a rural intermediary in order to ensure the targeted social and economic outputs to a broad rural constituency.
152. The Council was established back in 1991. An independent organisation, we account for ourselves on the basis of an NIPD but are a company limited by guarantee. Our vision for 2000 to 2006 is to help rural Northern Ireland make a full and balanced contribution to the development of the region.
153. The Council has a broad and detailed experience of delivering core and European rural development and funding programmes through the SPARD programme, the Peace Programme, and Leader I and II. We also have a central role in terms of advocating particular policy roles in relation to rural areas.
154. The work of the Council therefore is conducted within a broad social economy framework which targets both social and economic output. Given the inter-related and mutually reinforcing relationship between the two areas, the RDC believe that stand alone social and economic outputs are more difficult to achieve within the rural economy due to a number of factors, including an underactive private sector, the lack of economies of scale due to the dispersed settlement pattern of Northern Ireland, and an increasing pattern of political polarisation.
155. In terms of the questions the Committee asked us to address, the RDC is broadly happy with the proposed mix of funding priorities within the Transitional Programme. However, we would suggest that funding allocation and spend within all priorities should be continually monitored to ensure an equitable spread of resources and opportunities across the region. The debate with all the delegations and the discussion in terms of rural roles, I think, epitomises that point. There needs to be adequate rural proofing right across the whole funding system.
156. With particular regard to the Peace II programme, the objectives as detailed seem broadly acceptable with the provision that not all social measures should or indeed can have an economic focus. There needs to be a clear recognition of peace building as an independent output and the acceptance of the importance of social inclusion activities as a vehicle to achievement. The Council therefore support the concept of a greater economic focus as long as the balance of social activities is appropriate to the overall peace building aim of the programme.
157. The rural private sector, particularly the micro business and part-time sectors, could benefit from support across both the Transitional and Peace II programmes. I think there are particular parts of the economic framework and the private sector that could benefit from peace funds as part of a rural and private sector that is emerging out of a particularly difficult conflict.
158. There is increasing evidence of developing levels of polarisation in the settlement patterns of Northern Ireland. I am sure that is no strange news to members of this Committee. Many rural community groups reflect the demography of their locality and are so dominated by one tradition that they experience little contact with similar groups from another tradition engaged in similar activity in communities in nearby towns or villages. Lack of contact or exploration of diversity in this context limits the ability to address conflict and division, and also hinders the rural development regeneration process in that locality. The difficulty of finding neutral or inclusive spaces in rural areas is acute. It is crucial that appropriate resources are targeted and there is a recognition of the complexity of rural life. The resulting diversity of rural areas, and the consequences thereof, must be addressed under the Peace programme.
159. The current financial tables indicate the bulk of the EAGGF allocation has been detailed against the rural economic development measure within the Economic Renewal Strategic priority, which is particularly targeted at the agricultural sector. Everyone knows there are particular and acute problems within the agricultural sector, but there is a broad rural constituency out there that gets benefits from and gives benefit to each other. In order to ensure that the programme can take on board the unique social and community division problems of rural areas, the RDC would urge the Committee to ensure that a funding line is available to the broader rural economy including agriculture.
160. The Council wish to re-emphasise the Peace & Reconciliation aspect of the Peace II Programme, particularly the reconciliation and peace building outputs that will be required to support both social and economic transition. We declare a concern that Priority II, in particular social inclusion and reconciliation, should address rural as well as urban issues. The Council would endorse a commitment to equality in all aspects of both programmes.
161. In terms of what structures and mechanisms should be adopted for assessing or approving, the Council welcomes the establishment of a shadow CSF voluntary monitoring committee. It is clear from all programme evaluations to date that the experience of decentralised delivery has facilitated both access to funds by target groups and those who are underrepresented, and has broadened participation, decision-making and influencing policy. We would therefore endorse the continued mix of departmental intermediary funding bodies and local delivery mechanisms.
162. The RDC would support the idea that form follows function, and this has been well debated through the Committee, but both these activities need to follow on parallel, one can't happen before the other.
163. The current financial tables for the Peace II programme indicate that the bulk of the EAGGF commitment in the programme is to be handled via the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The Council, and our partner implementation organisation the Rural Community Network, will question the rationale for this decision, and discussion on this issue is still ongoing with the Department. We believe the joint experience of the Council and the Network in the implementation of a rural regeneration Community Based Actions Measure clearly demonstrates the added value and complementarity of the role of a rural intermediary.
164. While recognising that the current proposals are not yet at programme complement stage, we believe they would be strengthened by a clear indication of macro impact indicators and a monitoring framework. This could be effectively strengthened at the outset through the establishment of a Rural Baseline study. The discussion that I have listened to from previous delegations in terms of, for example, how would we measure social output, what is social and what is economic, I think there needs to be a steer from the Government from the outset to indicate the targets that they are striving for, and allocate the money on the basis of those targets and allocate responsibility to a range of delivery mechanisms to achieve those targets.
165. When it comes to the final audit, and we have to be publicly accountable, I think it is unfair at that stage to come to solely assess the output in economic terms. There has to be some clear recognition about the initial targets that were set; we wanted community participation; we wanted a great number of communities in that area; we wanted a target for Protestant communities; we wanted a different subregional analysis across a wide range of factors. If those things are spelt out we can be held accountable when it comes to the audit, but not solely in terms of financial audit.
166. Your question in terms of whether there is a gap between Peace I and II, the IFB under the initial Peace Programme, the RDC managed funding under projects and programmes and grant categories. Given the objectives of both funding categories we don't anticipate a sizeable problem when the Council grant beneficiaries stop due to a funding gap.
167. In terms of what proposals we would make to ensure that the projects currently under our control become more self-sufficient, project grants are allocated to be specifically time-bound and against time-bound activity. Thus assessment was centred on sustainability of the project outcomes rather than the sustainability of the actual project. The project is simply a vehicle to achieving economic and social outputs. The focus has to be on the sustainability of those outputs. They can be sustained not only by us but also by other people.
168. Three horizontal programmes were developed as part of the Peace Programme in order to concentrate on the focus and the outcomes. Things like how can a group deal with financial viability, how can they deal with trading, how can they deal with the legality to set up a business. Rural communities do not have those skills so support measures need to be put in place to help them to deal with those. How do they deal with the social outputs, how do they deal with peace and reconciliation, how do they deal with diversity. Somewhere someone needs to be in there to assist them with the skills. Those horizontal skills need to be built in as part of the programme.
169. Finally in terms of our recommendations we suggest that the lack of contact and exploration of diversity in the rural context has limited the ability of rural communities to address conflict and division. This consequently hinders the rural development process. The resulting cultural diversity of rural areas, and the consequences thereof, must be addressed under the Peace II programme. The Rural Development Council therefore strongly recommend the reallocation of EAGGF funds to a rural intermediary.
170. The Council recommends the experience of the Rural IFB, in the transparent and accessible delivery of the Community Based Actions measure of the initial peace programme, should be built upon and extended to ensure consistency and the continuity of engagement of rural communities.
171. In order to ensure appropriate and ongoing rural proofing of all measures within the overall support framework, the Council recommend the establishment of a rural subgroup of the Shadow Monitoring Committee with representation from all rural stakeholders.
172. It is imperative that projects and programmes are assessed against the sustainability of their outcomes. It needs to be spelt out at the outset what are the outcomes that the group are being asked to achieve. Those are both economic and social.
173. The Council strongly endorses the revised distinctiveness criteria for Peace II and recommend that these criteria should be applied consistently across all measures.
174. The Chairman: Thank you very much. First of all, in relation to the rural issues, do you see a problem in the light of funding being more urban directed at this time given consideration to the problems within the rural community? Again within a time limit, what do you see as emphasising the importance of targeting an appropriate funding agency instead of going down to ground level, as regards rural communities and being involved in them?
175. Mr McDonald: Yes, Mr Chairman. The total separate allocation that could be interpreted as being focused on things rural, is something in the region of £25 million and that is EAGGF money, which is the agriculture guidance fund. That is ringfenced under the economic renewal priority. In the tables as they currently stand funds are to be calculated solely by the Department. The point that we are making is that all the activities of both the Transition and the Peace Programmes will have an impact on things rural. The problem with rural areas in the past is that they tend to fall off the vertical responsibility of individual departments when it comes to dividing up the cake. It is an issue between the larger urban areas getting a slice of the cake. I think rural areas tend to come at the bottom of that agenda. So there needs to be some horizontal rural proofing.
176. As an organisation it is our responsibility to look at the various departments and say, for example, how does the Roads Service allocate its budget; is it going to major road network benefit. There are sound economical reasons for doing that. Whenever they get to the bottom line there has to be some assessment of what is the problem within rural areas and some minimal allocation has to be calculated, but that requires an overall integrated approach by Government to rural development and the development of rural areas.
177. As it sits at the minute, the vertical responsibility is with the Department of Agriculture, but I think there are groups and outputs that both ourselves and the community network has managed to achieve because of our closeness to the community.
178. Mr Leslie: I am not clear really what you are driving at here. I am not sure that I am missing your point or whether there is a sort of irreconcilable conflict between the two objectives. On the one hand rural communities do have problems quite apart from anything that is to be the consequence of 30 years of the Troubles. Speaking as somebody who lives in and represents the rural communities, I am only too pleased for any initiative that is available to help the problems of the rural communities. In observing SPARD, my own family was a user of SPARD and we would be able to see a shining endorsement of it in achieving diversification in considerable measure. Watching the efforts of Leader, which seemed to have all the right ideas and not nearly enough money, I see farmers desperate to embrace the ideas needing all the help that is available, and that proves insufficiently large.
The snag as I see it, and in a sense if you have to sort of massage it then I am on the wrong side, is that it doesn't necessarily fit precisely in the brackets of Peace money. I wonder really if that is what you are reflecting here, or whether I am picking up the emphasis wrong.
179. Mr McDonald: SPARD and the Leader monies and the mainline support to agriculture has primarily and traditionally been administered by the Department of Agriculture and has been focused on the agricultural community. I think as an organisation our view is that the solution to the rural problems cannot only be found in agriculture, and it is trying to bring together a range of agricultural and non-agricultural employees. For example, there are a number of farmers out there who need to get out of farming, who farm part-time, have skills in that they can weld, fix a car, but there are no part-time businesses or employment opportunities. Nowhere within the Transitional Programme, or nowhere across the CSF, is there a particular programme that has identified that gap and that is putting together measures to support, either through skills development or to accredit those skills that farmers and other rural people have and identifying part-time business opportunities to which they can be directed.
180. I think that clearly focuses on there being an economic output for the Peace Programme that legitimately, I think, the Peace Programme could take forward, but doesn't fall within the transitional side and therefore is not duplicated for additional public expenditure. They are on the pure peace and reconciliation outputs side.
181. I think rural communities, by their polarisation and by the problems that they have experienced, they were last in the conflict, they might be well last out of the conflict. I think the problem of the conflict is by no means resolved within rural areas. The Peace Programme has a legitimate role to play in addressing those issues. What we feel as an regional organisation is that while many of these issues are tackled by district councils and district partnerships, there are a number of groups who find it easier to tackle delicate issues outside their own patch. As a regional organisation with a regional focus we can bring the ability to put them in contact with other people outside the region, and I think that is a real added value which should be used to supplement the very good work that is going on by a whole range of other players out there.
182. Miss Taggart: I think one of the things we found through the project that we supported the first time around was that the project was only a vehicle, and whether the project was a rural transport project or a community build project according to what the needs of that local community were, that what the RDC brought to facilitate the project implementors as such was the technical and developmental support that allowed them to concentrate on getting the process output of that project, and the process output could be better representation on committees, better involvement of the local community, and the design and implementation of the projects, looking for opportunities to seek contact out of their single identity area or to increase the project's cross-community participation; or to examine through the project their own culture and have a better understanding of that culture so as to allow them to have more confidence to share their culture with others.
183. So the project, while it had very significant social or economic output in its own right, was also a vehicle for the process output. We felt that the experience of us as a regional organisation allowed groups to develop those skills in order to do that, and also to network across the region with other groups who were also administering projects of a like nature.
184. For example, we funded quite a number of community built projects, and I don't think people recognise in rural areas finding neutral areas is a real issue, and whether that is just about having neutral venues in its own right or to facilitate other types of project which might be training or community business or whatever. We have developed a training programme which is called community build. We have just put about 46 groups through that training programme. The programme consisted of a one-day initial session and then a two-day residential. That allowed groups who were carrying out projects, either on a cross-community basis or single identity communities to get together to discuss issues which were in common, but also to work through a practical workbook which looked at the technical stuff around tendering, sustainability of people, budgets, but also things around peace thinking - how they can make their centres more neutral.
185. Mr Maskey: I think that I would certainly be very encouraged by some of your earlier comments, particularly Martin yourself, in terms of looking at the vertical and the horizontal as you have described it, the responsibility that departments have. I am just a bit confused in terms of the kind of project that yourselves would be involved in directly, because obviously what you are doing is you are identifying problems from within the rural community and you have identified those as should be laid at the door of, at this point in time I suppose, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, but we need to be looking beyond that as well. You talked about the cross-sectoral and cross-Department thing.
186. I was just spurred on a bit by some of the comments that Oliver made earlier on, in terms of helping isolated communities which might be more readily magnified, and maybe rural communities. At the same time I agree that you have to be able to reach out, it doesn't matter whether it is in an urban or rural setting, because there have to be overlying principles in regard to this particular fund. It is not your job to be regenerating the entire rural community, you need to be looking at how local communities can actually become involved, become included within their own wider community, to have a say in what is going on, and so on. In other words, regenerating as an output. The process as you get there is probably more important in terms of P & R.
187. I would be curious to know what kind of projects you would actually be directly supporting, because while I think there are isolated communities that need support, there are a lot of isolated communities in rural areas for different reasons. I don't want to go into a political debate because that is an argument for another day and we would never agree on it, so there has to be defined objective need which allows your body to support groups and organisations. Therefore, one person's impression shouldn't just become fact, if you know what I mean.
188. You do have a limited resource, you have principles which underpin the fund, and it is how you actually apply the principles. It has got to be the objective need.
189. Mr McDonald: In terms of types of projects, one of the cornerstones of the rural development programme has been at the outset not to be prescriptive. For example, we have got to get farmers in the agriculture community meeting farmers around the country. They tend to think when they see you coming in with a briefcase either that you have the money or that you have the list of types of projects that need to be funded. We need to avoid that trap in terms of Peace. We have invested 10 years in terms of community development and capacity building. If we have taught communities anything, we have taught them to analyse their own problems and come up with their own solutions. I think what the Peace Programme should bring to bear is the flexibility to help them realise those solutions.
190. When I look back retrospectively in terms of Peace I and social projects that we funded, the sectors we targeted were tourism, arts and culture, youth, network, communication for the environment, social, pure agriculture and fisheries, transport, a community venue or a community business. In many respects it doesn't really matter what the project is because the project will be a result of an audit by a community of its own problems and an identification of solutions. Where we as an organisation have valued what the community does is to say okay, we fund you to do those particular projects, ask you to achieve certain outputs and we have to account for your outputs and our outputs; but where we need to move up a notch is to say if some of these things have worked with rural development (and we act as an observatory in many respects), take on some of the more risky stuff that the private sector would simply not touch and would not engage in those themselves.
191. Where those do work and where the lessons can be learned, it is our responsibility as an organisation to lay those things at the door of Government and say here is something that does work and here is something that rural communities want, can you mainstream that within Government's overall programme. That is the sequence of events that needs to follow through if we are to get sustainability. There is no point in going in for a short burst of activity and moving off into the sunset, we have got to change the overall policy.
192. Mr B Bell: I feel that of all the three groups who have been here you are the only group that has been satisfied with the mix of economic and social activity, so to me that answers my question, really, because I have asked that question of the others. I feel that you seem to have recognised this in your approach to it. It is hardly surprising, I suppose, because in the rural community economic development is more important now, it is the key to the future. So I am not really asking you the question, I am just pointing out that I'm pleased that you have recognised that fact and are taking it on board.
193. Miss McVey: You are obviously talking to a broad range of organisations today, and I don't think it is absolutely fair to make an equation between one and the other, the actual aims and outputs of each. Comparing our own organisation with the Partnership Board, there is a different foundation and perspective for the type of work that the Partnership Board is trying to achieve, albeit achieving elements of it by peace and reconciliation. Our perspective in terms of community based action has been more clear-cut in a sense. Perhaps we were fortunate there, that we have allocated funds for projects but we have never lost sight of the social inclusion perspective in terms of underpinning. As was mentioned before, the project has been used as a vehicle, it has been very-broad based in terms of choice of project that has been recommended, but it has always been seen as a vehicle for achieving a number of peace and reconciliation outcomes, and that the community group that is being worked with is actually allowed to build and is supported in building skills that will achieve that end. But we are possibly more clear-cut than either the work of NIVT or the Partnership Board.
194. Mr Bell: I know time is constrained but with respect, that is exactly the point that I have been making. It makes no difference to which organisation that question is asked because economic development is the key to the social problem. You have recognised it more than the others, that is all I am saying.
195. Mr McDonald: Can I respond to say, I think it would be wrong for me to leave the impression, while I am welcoming the comments, that as an organisation that we have pinned ourselves to solely the economic mast.
196. Mr B Bell: You made it clear that you didn't.
197. Mr McDonald: I opened up at the outset by saying we recognise we operate in the social economy, we want Government to recognise that and not to come back in five years time and say, you didn't achieve the economic outputs, we don't want to know of the social outputs. For an organisation, given where we come from and the perspective we take, we find that there has to be clarity at the outset; what is it that Government wants to achieve? What is that the European Union wants to achieve? Recognise that and articulate that and give us the job to go and do.
198. Mr B Bell: I am being criticised for praising you.
199. Mr Gibson: You have probably heard the question asked to other people, if you are dispensing £4.1 million it wouldn't fit in my suitcase, accountability is my problem. You know the reason the First Minister and his deputy were over there, so you can see that point. The one thing that I do have concern about, and I am a strong supporter of rural communities, is that many people alleging that they are helping the rural community; that they have been socially inclusive; and that they are being all things to all people.
200. You did hit one very nice note, it was that farmer with the soil in the suitcase, he asked the burning question, how much is in it for me. It comes back to economy of survival in this case. The economy of survival in a rural area is the necessary ingredient and I am delighted to hear that you are looking at aspects of the part-time farmer because he is the completing figure that causes a greater social disruption. He moves into an urban setting and he has to accept the lowest common denominator in a ghetto housing estate with rural standards. They belong to a set of people who have what we call 'country standards' for want of a better word. That goes into an area that is more of a destruction mechanism and we have suffered from that over a long number of years, long before the troubles. We built massive housing estates and we ghettoised people from rural areas where the lowest common denominator in those were the social problems. We are trying to reinvent it.
201. The other thing is, this is one that might lack credibility, a community cannot manage their affairs. This is really what Europe is saying, community people cannot really be business managers. Is there another method that you can have because I sit on a directorship of a number of those boards that dispense money and there is very tight order? It must be a viable proposition. It must be well tested to make rural diversification work. But when the community is involved, a community business, and I direct one, that is the biggest problem, that we have the expertise. When you go to buy it nobody will help us purchase it. I think you have a role to do.
202. Mr McDonald: On the issue of public accountability; yes, we have to be accountable, I wouldn't want to prejudice any further business of the Public Accounts Committee in this forum. As far as we are concerned we have been audited, we are audit-fatigued. There has to be balance struck. We all know we have to be accountable. If you want rural communities to take risks for economic development and take risks for peace, you can frighten them off very easily at the outset with the amount of bureaucracy we bring to bear.
203. In terms of rural communities providing the sort of community businesses and economic outputs that we think they can provide. That is the big question. I have been in this game for ten years, I have engaged with different types of community groups, with different expectations, some succeed, some don't. If you look at new business start-up anywhere within the urban environment, about a third of new business start-ups fail. It is no surprise to me that after ten years in the rural development programme that there are failures. We should not be ashamed of failures, we should be able to balance the economic failures with the social outputs that have been achieved. Communities are engaged, they have a sense of belief in rural areas, they might have failed in that particular project, but the process outputs need to be articulated on their behalf. And those people who have achieved the economic outputs provide the balance. The rural communities themselves can not provide the panacea to rural problems.
204. We have to look at new ways to engage with beneficiaries that are not just the standard community group as we know it, with partnership in the private sector. Maybe we have to let the private sector take a stake at the outset, more forms of co-operative and collective engagement. The rural programme to date did not focus on engagement with individuals and the private sector and we need to engage in the private sector if the programme is going to be sustainable. If we don't get the private sector in with an interest and keep it sustainable what is going to happen after four or five years? We see the need to broaden out the range of people.
205. The Chairman: Time is running short, so we are going to ask Mr Hussey for the last question.
206. Mr Hussey: I have concerns as to the future of RCN, RDC. I tabled a question to Mr Durkan and you may be interested in the answer that was received:
"I can certainly reassure the member and indeed any other who is concerned that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development is clearly determined and fully accepts that a specific rural intermediary funding body will continue to be the delivery mechanism for the administration of funds".
207. I am assuming and I have taken the document that we received today, had a brief glance, it let us see that RDC would very much welcome the response that has been tabled by the Minister.
208. I suppose then if such a group is established, the question originally would have been how could you have ensured the co-operation between interested groups, but what sort of groups do you see having input into the new body? Obviously you see yourself and RCN having a pivotal role in that. I wondered when I received this document why we didn't have a joint presentation, we have a joint document here. Obviously you see yourself and RCN having a role being subsumed by such bodies; what other such groups do you see going in there relative to the rural community?
209. Mr McDonald: We do welcome and we are delighted the question was asked and the answer was so positive. In terms of who would be involved in the rural IFB and delivery, we have never said within our submissions that it should be exclusively the IFB as we know it or it should be exclusively those partners. Obviously, we feel, bring a track record in terms of accountability and achieving outputs and expertise, but depending on measure that are identified to deliver as part of Peace II. For example, if we are trying to target farmers under part-time business, part-time employment, of course we would need a particular sub-group that would involve agricultural unions, co-operatives or local enterprise agencies. The range of partners will be dictated by the programme they want to deliver and various sub-measures, we want to be as open and as inclusive in terms of the design and implementation of the programme.
210. The Chairman: I think the important aspect as well is being the intermediary funding body, is that you have a big enough pot of money that you can work within, so that the money that is being used is retained in the department. That is important that, actually is within your remit, is that correct?
211. Mr McDonald: It will in a sense. If there is £25 million or £27 million there has to be a credible amount to be allocated for delivery for some form of intermediary source. That also should not preclude the EAGGF of the activities that we engage upon, that clearly seem to be lined up to focus on the economic side but there is no reason why money from other parts of the programme could not be used to target some of the more socially focused peace and reconciliation programmes. Therefore, I think whatever money could be complemented by money from across the overall Peace Programme could mean our gain is someone else's loss. We do not want to be in a position where we are saying we want to take money off the partnerships boards or another IFB, but those organisations we feel can add value to work with them in partnership and co-ordination to target particular measures.
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Thursday 29 June 2000
Mr Molloy (Chairman)
Mr Fitzduff )
212. The Chairman: I will just declare the meeting reopened again. Just to welcome the Rural Community Network. Just go through the same procedure, the presentation and then throw it open for questions.
213. Mr Fitzduff: First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation. I will be as brief as I can. I think the questions are probably the most important part of this. If I could just introduce the Rural Community Network which is a voluntary organisation, it has 460 members, most of which are community groups in rural areas. Our particular focus is on poverty, disadvantage, equality, and community development in rural areas.
214. We have four areas of work really that we concentrate on. The first one is to articulate the voice of rural communities, and that largely is in relation to policy areas, secondly to promote community development and networking, which is building up the community infrastructure in community organisation in rural areas; thirdly to work towards social inclusion and peace building. Finally, to support sustainable rural communities, and that is both in terms of the use of the resources within communities, such as community centres and so on, as well as environmental sustainability. Those are the four keys areas.
215. In terms of Peace I. We have worked with the Rural Developmental Council, and you have heard and received an outline in the papers which were presented which is part of the joint work. Obviously that is an important context in which we have worked.
216. Just in relation to the questions you have asked, with regard to the economic/social split, again like others we are not going to say it is 50/50 or 60/40 because I think the same issues arise. I could only reinforce perhaps what has been said by the other delegations that the integration of social and economic is actually how we see development. I was going to say that internationally the experience has been that when economic development in particular disadvantaged and separated communities has been attempted through purely economic progress people have immediately identified the shortfall on the social, and when social programmes without an understanding of the economic have been tried, they have been defective in too much social concentration and not enough realisation of the importance of the economic.
217. Having said that, our perspective from Rural Community Network is really complementing Rural Development Council's more economic focus and on the social side. I don't make any apology for that. That is very much where we are coming from.
218. I think the second question, and I will say something of our own experience, but the second question related to the assessment and approval monitoring use of funds. We had a very deliberate strategy under Peace I to deliver the funding. We wouldn't say it was perfect but we have put down mechanisms in preparation for peace to improve long term reconciliation. I would ask Michael Hughes to say something about that.
219. We go through a process of applications, we engage a Committee within Rural Community Network to look at those applications. We are very close to the people that we fund. I have to say the feedback, both in the mid term and in terms of the evaluations we have done, has been very supportive of the approach. I think Avila Kilmurray was very good in outlining the methodology for development and funding, which I think is a credible way of working with communities, especially those who are not used to either bureaucracy or complex form of application and accountability, formfilling and so on. I think that there has been tremendous strides and developments made within rural communities in relation to that process.
220. The funding gap: Perhaps we have the luxury with being with the Rural Development Council in Peace I because instead of trying to say look, we will do everything, we actually took what we thought was manageable and we had a strategic view of how that money would be most effectively used within our strategic interests and fitting within the Peace Programme, which we saw very much as being an outcome which we had been lobbying for for a number of years with NICVA and other organisations, to try and build the foundations for peace in Northern Ireland, particularly with a rural focus.
221. In doing that, the fact that there was almost a 15 year lag in terms of community development in rural areas from that which had been going on in urban was one factor. The recognition that there was a weaker infrastructure in Protestant communities was another which manifested itself as we went through the applications. I am picking up on some of the questions here and will follow up if you require.
222. In terms of the funding gap, we decided very early on that the best way to address the division in the community was not necessarily that communities cheek-by-jowl would immediately engage in projects within two separate communities but that at a wider level, at a subregional level, subregional networks could be formed. The criteria there was that they did have to cover both communities and in that way people could meet in a less threatening way to explore their issues.
223. Secondly, to build trust and capacity we started funding small grants which would support embryonic groups and groups just starting up and trying to get going. There were those two key elements: one, subregional networking to cover all rural areas in Northern Ireland, and the other to support local groups.
224. In terms of sustainability, the subregional networks have acquired a remit within rural development which I think will be sustained through being part of a rural development infrastructure. Hopefully it will be funded through the Transition Programme, but they are also bringing in projects and other elements that are making themselves sustainable.
225. In our programme we don't have the same gap funding requirement that may be manifest elsewhere. That is not to say that there are not many groups that actually will require funding, but I think Avila has picked up on many of those. The £1.5 million is something which obviously from their stats would have covered many groups that we will be involved with, but the separate projects that we funded didn't fall into that category.
226. In the sense that we are really only getting rural communities mobilised into community development, there needs to be subsequent funding. We would treat that in the same way this time as we did the last time, to say what is our strategy that can ensure that there is sustainability there. There is a whole other discussion as to what sustainability is and it is certainly not limited to meaning you have the money, now you can pay for all future activities yourself. That is much too limited a view of what sustainability means.
227. We are currently looking at two elements for the next round of peace. One is a grant-led programme which we will carry out in a different way. It will be much more dedicated to the pre-development approach leading to an understanding between the user, the group, and our assessor in terms of what needs to be done and what are the consequences, right through to monitoring and sustainability. On the other level, a number of interventions such as addressing isolated Protestant areas, women, young people, mediation and cross-border activity. So these are some of the proposed activities.
228. I would just say without going further into this that the situation in rural areas is different, and I am absolutely aware that so many of you know it better than I do, and I think the letter from the Minister was certainly very welcome in regard to recognising that there is a specific rural problem that needs to be addressed. But we simply say that farming is in crisis, rural has been neglected, and rural generally is left to the second position, as demonstrated by the roads announcement today. You immediately say why are you identifying rural roads as being the bit that falls off immediately. It almost states the case itself. There is a huge task to be done in transforming rural society from the decline of agriculture, but the argument we would put to you is that you cannot solve the problem by solely focusing on the agricultural community.
229. The importance of agriculture, I do not want to detract from at all, it is crucial within rural society but it is a minority within rural communities and we have to use the full resource within rural communities in order to regenerate rural communities, and that includes particularly women, and it includes both sides of the community, and it involves actually working together with a better involved community.
230. I know and you know how little people engaged with the system in the past in rural areas. It was something out there; it was seen simply as the dark deep but not your own. In a sense the work that we have been doing in building up that infrastructure is absolutely key to moving rural society into the mainstream and to engage. So it is about participation, it is about the divisions, and it is about reconciliation. We are committed in Peace II to focus on what peace is about, that makes this programme different from the mainstream programme.
231. The Chairman: Let me just thank you. Just on that particular line, the one question I just have in mind is how effective your efforts have been to actually ensure the mainstreaming into the wider rural development. Instead of the projects just being individual, are they in the wider stream? Is there any measure of it?
232. Mr Fitzduff: There is some recognition in terms of that infrastructure. We have gone around in something of a circle from 1991 when economic outcomes were sought very quickly. I have got to say that the pressure to show economic outcomes, showed the weakness of that approach in itself, because you needed to build both the economic and social elements fully into the equation. I think that that is now well recognised.
233. In terms of rural developing, and I don't know if your question is relating to saying look, if you leave this within DARD alone is that limiting the sphere of activity; I think that the right place for rural development is still within the Department of Agriculture for a foreseeable period, but that does not mean that rural is isolationist in terms of the structures and the policies of government. That would be a weakness. We have measurable outcomes in a range of spheres.
234. Mr Leslie: You say you have 440 members and you draw a Committee from each of the counties but are you everywhere, so to speak. Have you got blank spots.
235. Mr Fitzduff: Yes, we have got weak spots. Actually begging your indulgence, Chair, one of them is around Dungannon where we have not been as effective as we could, but that is beginning to be addressed. The other is south Antrim. Those are the two weaker areas in terms of subregional networks but it is not that we have been not working in these areas, it is simply that the cohesion of bringing groups together has been difficult. All the other areas are covered through those mechanisms, I think quite effectively.
236. Mr Hughes: I think the area of Dungannon just has a new subregional network starting, so hopefully it will catch up fairly quickly. In the south Antrim area we have just finished a piece of work looking at establishing a subregional network in the south Antrim area. It has proved positive, and I will be taking on the task over the next three or four months to develop a working Committee to set up a subregional network for the south Antrim area. When that is done the rural areas for Northern Ireland are totally covered then.
237. Mr Leslie: I am just wondering to what extent you are able to be confident you are getting the contributions you need to be able to fulfil the objectives. Are you, in fact, constrained by the fact that you are doing it very well in some places but you cannot in others?
238. Mr Fitzduff: I suppose there are two demonstrations of that. One is we recognise where the weakness is, we are putting some concentration into that and we want to continue that. Secondly, relating to the other question of grants to the Protestant community, I think that you or a number of people raised, the grants applications and where they were coming from. We did an analysis in the midterm of the programme and of the grants that we had coming in there were 153 from mixed communities, 118 from Catholic communities and 69 from Protestant communities. That represented in terms of applications a difference which was 45% for the mixed community, 34% from Catholic communities and 20% from Protestant communities.
239. What we did at that point was to advertise. We had a programme which was looking at low infrastructure as well. We advertised and specifically said that we would welcome the opportunity to deal with grants from Protestant communities. We actually turned that figure around in the second part of that programme. So there are things you can do. We have done this with our Committee, with the Board and with different parts of the organisation as well. So I think it is a question of not being complacent and by continually looking at how you are performing and then taking action to address it.
240. Ms Keys: Just to follow on what Niall has said, we didn't sit back and say oh goodness, we didn't get applications, that is terrible. We actually said what can we do about this. We had a discussion at Board level and that was why we decided to put that sentence in on the next applications. That gave Michael an opportunity then to move into areas that he wouldn't have been in before. It worked very well.
241. Mr Maskey: I wonder could you just summarise for me the essential difference between your own network and the work that you do and the projects you support and the RDC, and what kind of collaboration would there be?
242. Mr Fitzduff: There is very close collaboration and as well and we do keep tabs on our different work. We are aware that in the public mind it is very easy to get confused between the two. But apart from the RDC being set up by Government and being the Rural Development Agency, and it is much bigger than we are, we are a voluntary sector organisation, we were set up by the groups in rural communities themselves wanting a voice for those rural communities. As I said, our commitment is to the participation, engagement and empowerment of those on the margins within rural communities, and that is where we are coming from in this. It is about ensuring that there is participation and there is a voice for those on the margins experiencing poverty, disadvantaged, for example one of the key issues that we are focusing on is the equality issue in terms of peace and reconciliation. It is much more a community development based organisation.
243. Having said that, I suppose the advantage is that we recognise the complementariness that is there with the RDC in terms of having a more economic focus. RDC does not want to be pigeonholed as being interested in only economic projects because they recognise the importance of the social; equally we don't want to be pigeonholed just into social where we are not interested in economic, we are. But I think the points have been made earlier - basically unless people have confidence and skills to engage, either going out to get a job themselves or to help their community to do something, then the process is defective.
244. We are very much focused on where disadvantage exists, where poverty exists, and where there is conflict between communities. That is where our focus is.
245. Ms Keys: I suppose as well there is the fact that we are a membership organisation, we are our members.
246. Mr Maskey: Would there, for example, be projects which you would jointly support?
247. Mr Hughes: Under the Peace fund through the small grants the RCN would have administered we have funded several new groups to get established. With the confidence that they have gained, they have actually been able to go at a later stage to the RDC to get bigger grants. So ours is very much about building confidence, getting up and running, making the connection. That has happened throughout the North where new groups get small grants to get up and running and go to RDC to go get bigger grants to do maybe a project.
248. Mr Fitzduff: In the next round we are proposing that we actually have a joint Committee. I know that is a bit of a shift. We shared some elements the last time but this time we are trying to bring better coordination to Peace II.
249. Mr Weir: In terms of the funding, in terms of monitoring, you have already indicated that you have a sort of midterm monitoring to ensure that both communities were well represented, and you were able to take corrective action. I just want to know on a wider level, one of the public concerns that there has been about Peace funding has been the question of projects either being funded which are not ultimately viable, or indeed projects perhaps have been funded to a certain extent and then find that the money isn't there to complete the project. There has been obviously a degree of public controversy over some of the projects, I hasten to add not connected to your own organisation. I just wondered can you give us a bit more indication in terms of the monitoring side of things? Do you have sufficient monitoring that will be able to evaluate whether projects midway through are viable, or whether indeed it is perhaps a question of if they are not viable the fact that good money is not poured down after bad? In situations where perhaps changes could be made to make that viable, have you been able to use corrective action to be able to improve the situation where there have been problems that have arisen on a project which has perhaps looked grand at the start and then developed problems?
250. Mr Hughes: In terms of monitoring evaluation, there is a monitoring check and a financial check every quarter; there are six monthly evaluations. Plus with the subregional network structure that we have we are able to tap into a lot of groups that we have funded. Our members are working with subregional networks and we are getting that information as well.
251. Groups will have come back to us and say what they originally wanted - they have been able to get for free, eg, training or else they want to change the way the grant is spread to change it. We take a very proactive approach here. If it is about community development, about capacity building, about confidence building, if they can make the decision that the next proposal will actually help the group, we are flexible enough to change the grant within that.
252. I suppose one of the things that I would hold, RCN certainly don't want to take the grant off you if the group can use it within the parameters of the grant. I went on several occasions when I have considered the group may need a little bit of help here, we have talked through it and have been able to sort things out.
253. I suppose the best thing with the small grants is that they are for fairly small pieces of work. Out of 400 or 500 grants we have given out we are talking two dozen at the most, but most of the other ones work because they are small, clearly defined, have been well-costed. People know what they want, know where they can get it, and go and do it.
254. Mr Weir: In terms of the overall monitoring exercise, there are various groups in terms of the Peace money. I wonder has there been any coordination or cooperation of the groups in terms of monitoring. You seem to have been reasonably successful on your monitoring exercise, possibly in part because of the nature of the grants. Do you think other groups perhaps could learn lessons from the way that the Rural Community Network has operated in this field?
255. Mr Hughes: Being modest, we are trying to keep monitoring to a level that is commensurate with the grant. That is the key thing that we think. We think that some of the monitoring has gone over the top.
256. Having said that, with the bigger grants, with the subregional network grants, we have a different monitoring structure for them. That is the £40,000 a year grant, that is a different one. I think when you go out to groups and you talk to groups about monitoring, what they are expected to do, maybe a group that has got money from three or four different funders, we all asking to fill in nearly the same form at different times of the year and it goes to different places. One group would have said do they not trust us, would one form not do. There is something about that.
257. In the next round I certainly would be advocating that all the funders get together and say if we are all giving out small grants is there a need for six monitoring forms being filled in by the group, would one not do. We will just take our own information, pool it centrally, and take the information that we need out of it for our own purposes, because I do feel that a lot of groups out there are spending more time monitoring than actually doing the work that they have got the grant for. I think there is something wrong with that system.
258. Mr Hussey: I am looking at your submission with reference to the programme delivery and the second part of it, the cross-border strands. You do mention the mixed communities, Protestant and Catholic, north and south. I think you do know that the Protestant communities are not necessarily on the northern side of the border more than the Catholic communities are not necessarily on the southern side of the border, as has been evidenced by work that has been ongoing in east Donegal.
259. Moving to one of the identities which you specified as the third part, if I could start with your strand two tactic which is a demonstration of working with community groups who have previously received funding as single identity groups, to encourage them to take the next step and work jointly with other community groups. That is strand two of that particular part of the delivery and these are projects for self-sufficiency by the end of Peace II.
260. If I now look at strand one of that same delivery section, the first is concerned with the position of the Protestant communities living close to the border, social inclusion of those communities, etc. etc. So how will that be phased by the end of Peace II if strand two is groups who have already been brought up to a level of confidence and capacity, and presumably their argument is coming through from Peace I. There will be funding to deal with that strand two element, and strand two will in fact be going into operation presumably as we go into Peace II.
261. Therefore the strand one of your tactic, I think we are getting in a smaller pool because there are people already going on the strand two.
262. Mr Hughes: Strand two is certainly in for the single identity groups that we have funded already. We would like them to move, but if they don't want to move.
263. Mr Hussey: Strand one groups, how do you move them up?
264. Mr Fitzduff: I think it actually fits with your question, Peter, which was about linking experience. Part of our strategy in Peace I was to ensure that there was subregional networking coverage throughout the areas, and that has been built up further.
265. Ideally we would like to take the time for every group to move forward at this point but programmes are time-limited. Equally if you push groups to a point where you are saying you are not only going to do your single identity work and get your own community together, but you have got to work across the divide and we want it done within this time, that is not going to work.
266. What we are trying to do is put local groups within a wider framework of community development support through subregional networks at another level. There is now greater recognition for this approach because community development is now in practically every strand of government policy now. It is one thing having it in policies but what it means on the ground is a different matter. We do want to build up that kind of support so that groups are not left high and dry by two methods. One is bringing the groups together to use this strand one and strand two so that that experience is transferred. Secondly, to ensure that their support comes from the subregional network in the long run. But that money, if they require more money, it is not always money, at least they will have that support there. Our experience is that groups as they develop actually find other outlets or raise money themselves, or gain confidence and move on.
267. Mr Hussey: So the sustainability of the new strand one group is existent in the strand two that moved forward.
268. Mr Fitzduff: Yes, that is the way we are looking at it.
269. Mr Gibson: You have already heard my questions about the accountability from the European side. Could I swing this argument in a different direction. We are looking to try to give advice to the Minister about a funding agency to cover agriculture and rural community. I am looking back at how it was handled heretofore and that there were no funding intermediaries coming through the Department of Agriculture. The Department has operators out in the rural areas, and they have their offices in the various buildings in towns right around, in every capital town in the province they have their Department office; all you knew about funding at the end of the day was that when you got your recognition grant, IFI was at the bottom of the cheque.
270. Today we have heard from four competing agencies, all telling us in various ways how they should be the intermediary funding body. You have indicated that your role was not really economic funding but really a pastoral role for the community network, if I could rephrase it in a different way.
271. What I am looking at is this: what advice would you give the Minister about the economics of how to run the European peace money without having a plethora of agencies, because Europe is not going to tolerate funding, cocktail funding, as we knew it in the past where I could have gone to the RDA, I went around them all, and I eventually got some mixture, the potency of which was doubtful.
272. Europe is right in saying that because all of these five different aims, different visions, different objectives, and the product user, the consumer or client at the end then was left very confused and left with something maybe not economic. It was not a sustainable venture because of the constrictions of funding. So what I'm saying is this: Have we really spent or misspent the afternoon in saying, look dear Minister, there is a much simpler way of making sure that the money can be distributed much more efficiently, much more effectively, and is going to give a better result to the rural community?
273. Mr Fitzduff: That is a good question. In one sense I am tempted to go into the simplicity in terms of trying to give a stock answer, but you are fully aware of the complexity with which rural communities are now faced in terms of decline of agriculture, in terms of building up their own base, in terms of confidence and skills and so on, and taking on board what they can do for themselves because that is absolutely key. Unless we can actually engage those communities in their own development with some ownership, I think the economic gain is lost. People will move to the towns, they will desert the countryside. The very fact that this place has a huge commitment to rural communities, and people do not want to leave, they want to live where they were born and brought up but they want to make those communities work. We have got to invest in that. To my mind that is the link.
274. I think the beauty of the programme RCN is putting forward is that it complements the Rural Development Council and gives an opportunity for those projects which can move if they decide into project development with economic outcomes.
275. Why would you have different funders? I think it is very much that people do identify with the funder. If you take the rural out of the equation, if you take the rural specific out of the equation less people from rural areas will engage. We had that for years and until 1985 there wasn't even a recognition that rural society existed. The cheques came in through Europe and that was it. Having different options is something for local development.
276. In terms of how close the Departments are to the groups, I think they can only get so close. I think there is a gap there and that is the kind of gap that we are trying to fill, but we are trying to do it on the basis that the communities themselves are saying we want to engage rather than going to the "them and us" sort of mechanism which has existed in the past.
277. Mr Gibson: Could I give one very quick shot giving the counter arguments that are coming? Farmers' unions, NIPA, all exist. If we take a vintage rally there is no problem, go to a farmers' meeting. There is no problem. They are all sitting there, Charlie, Seamus, Sean; they are all interested in this cow milking, getting out in the real world. So in actual fact when it comes to the practicalities, the common touch is in actual fact the common interest, and therefore the farmers do mix with each other. At a market there is no problem about discussing who is what because it is the wink and nod that buys the cattle and there is nobody that asks what colour the money is. So the farming community doesn't have this problem that maybe you perceive of division elsewhere. Maybe in other areas, but rural communities are probably more vocal.
278. What I am asking is this: is this a more divisive thing than cohesive? In other words, if you have established patterns of common joining together in a farming rural community in various patterns in various ways, and bearing in mind I live out in these and I see this happen, are we trying to manufacture a new indoctrination all together, and that defeats the existing well tried and tested potent?
279. Mr Fitzduff: I think farming, as you know yourself, has gone through enormous change. I have got to disagree to some extent, I think there are huge divisions in rural areas. They are not as manifest as in the cases you don't have the walls and so on, and there have been amazing things happening in terms of people helping one another, but there have also been huge atrocities and consequences of the conflict. Actually I think the trick is to use this money to lift the vision to where we are focusing on building a different society. We are trying to focus on what will work for the future, and that is in economic and social terms.
280. I think if we are being honest, none of us know what will really work. We are working out in a new situation with the Committees and all the rest; we are working in new situations; the communities are all experiencing something different today because the world has changed, I mean IT, mobility and all of those changes that people are trying to come to terms with.
281. I think that complexity is the key thing, but it is not in looking and saying either we were in harmony before and now there is conflict, there simply is a new situation we have to address and we have got to do it from a higher vision which will engage everyone. I think unless communities themselves are organised to do that, it will not happen.
282. Mr B Bell: Chairman, you have been here all afternoon and you have noticed that the Committee have really been dealing with a set of questions that were designed to try and get a rounded response from the various groups. I have been dealing with the economic and social aspect of this operation, and I have also been dealing with the perception that Protestants are underrepresented in all this.
283. Niall, in your opening remarks you seemed to indicate that you were on the same wavelength as the previous groups as far as social and economic issues are concerned, and I appreciate that. I feel, as I have said before, that the economy is the key to all this. There may be some doubt in the minds of the various groups as to whether this is true or not, or acceptable or not. I was very interested in what Libby said about how you are dealing with the other issue that I raised, the Protestant underrepresentation issue. You have actually gone into this and tried to be proactive in trying to deal with it. Do you think there are lessons for other groups to learn from this?
284. Ms Keys: Yes, I think certainly there are. I think one thing we are recognising is that reconciliation has to come at the end of a long process, and there are other things that need to be happening beforehand, and that different groups in different areas or at different points of development and maybe the history they have gone through and their experience has affected that as well. As you said, maybe the ethos and so on. The kind of work that Michael has been doing has been very useful in actually going out and not saying maybe we will hear about a group if we are lucky; it is actually trying to go out and finding out where these gaps are. He has been spending a bit of time in building up relationships. I think that is basically what we are talking about in this programme, building trust and relationships. Unless we do that then it doesn't matter, the economic focus will falter because it needs to be underpinned by that building of trust and relationships. I think we are on a long haul with that. It is kind of convoluted, but Michael will come in on it.
285. Mr Hughes: I think if there is a lesson for everybody it is you really have to get out there. At the end of our first funding phase we just got a map and put a marker against every application, saw where the gaps were and organised three workshops for those areas. The amount of applications we got from those three areas in the second phase was pleasing. People are willing to engage. I suppose they are a bit nervous about engaging, they probably don't know how, but they want someone to actually show them that it is not a thing that they need a lawyer to do. If they come and talk to us or we come and talk to them we can help them. I think we have to be very much proactive in getting out there, getting the message across that we want your applications, we want your community to engage with community development. There is no reason why your community isn't as entitled to Peace money or to any other money than a community 20 miles up the road from you.
286. Mr B Bell: I don't want you to run away with the idea that because I have been asking these questions all day that I am asking them on my own behalf solely. I am asking these question on behalf of this Committee. Every single member of this Committee is concerned about this issue and so is the Minister. That is why we wanted to try to get the issues out into the open today.
287. Ms Keys: You were wondering had you misspent the afternoon, and I hope you don't feel you did. I certainly don't feel I have because for me it has been an opportunity to meet with politicians and to actually be here, and that has been something interesting for me. It is an opportunity I appreciate.
288. The Chairman: One of the things that we do want to do, just to explain this point, there are a number of questions which people actually fielded from different angles and different directions but really they were the same questions throwing together a broad picture in relation to the structure of this.
289. I think one of the things that comes across within the Committee is we want to see all of the community benefiting from it. We also want to see the right to live between social and economic development, we want to see the sustainability of how all of this will survive if the funding collapses, as it will come to an end at some stage.
290. One of the things in relation to the issue of Protestants not actually benefiting from the funding, I found in local Partnership Board level there was a different idea of what actually funding was available for as well, and actually a lot of the early applications from both sides of the community were actually misplaced to some extent, because people felt that this was the first time that money was going to be available to a community for whatever they wanted, near enough. Then there was a lot of discontentment whenever a number of projects were turned down by the Partnership Boards, and by the various different funding bodies as well. Did you find that they were getting this sort of response?
291. Mr Fitzduff: A bit of that. Actually it was one of the things we wanted to say, we have actually become clearer.
292. Mr Hughes: I think in the first phase we would have funded everything bar wages. But as the phases went through the second phase and the third phase, we looked at what we wanted to do, we looked at what the Peace Programme wanted to do, we got very much more focused on the activities we would fund, on the groups we would fund, and as the groups came in, people within rural areas, young people, women, the farming community, people with disabilities and the Protestant community, we came clearer. In the second phase the applications were of a higher standard and they were much easier to actually assess because of that.
293. Mr Hussey: You can see then how a perception can build up whereby you say in the first phase everything bar wages. The source of applications may not have been the same as the subsequent source of applications, therefore somebody coming in on a second application will be saying how come he got that and I'm not getting that. This is where perceptions can come from and have got to be readdressed.
294. Mr Hughes: In the second phase of our funding what we had to give was reduced by £250,000, so we really had to turn a lot down. The third phase was the same. I do take the point because they didn't have a chance to buy into the first phase. The second phase, really there was very small grants £1,500 instead of £3,000, it was really aimed to get people together to do something for themselves. It clearly focused on that.
295. Mr Fitzduff: I wouldn't want anybody to go away with the idea that there was not criteria set. Our criteria were very tight and were set down from the beginning and people had to meet the criteria before anyone got a grant. We didn't just find an application coming in. Every group was invited to apply and then assessed.
296. Mr Gibson: This is just a different thing all together. My experience has been in Europe you need to get into the European mind. One of the things that we are able to agree on was the problem of auditing, and how Europeans audit things is different from us. Being over audited by people who don't know what European audits are is another thing.
297. The other thing is in relation to the application form. I think we are maybe getting too skilled or overskilled at how we target the local funder, and therefore Europe comes along and sees how their money is being spent. Europe's perception of where the targets should be and our perception, when it comes right down to the financing agency, the local funding agencies, are out of focus. Therefore Europe sees one thing, the local agency another. There has to be a bit of real work done by the Department itself, or whoever is doing this, that they marry those two bits of thinking.
298. I have seen an application done by my own Council and another Council; when they first sent in for a packed programme it went straight down the tubes. I happened to be in Europe and said why did that fail, and after four hours and another lot of liquid I discovered why it failed. The truth of the matter is this - we have got to do this.
299. The Chairman: We will leave the last word to yourself.
300. Mr Fitzduff: Interestingly, we had a paper produced on social inclusion and reconciliation by Dr Duncan Morrow on our behalf, which was sent around earlier to all the MLAs. There are other copies here, and a report on the midterm assessment of our own programme is there as well. If anybody wants a copy you are very welcome to have it.
301. Interestingly when we went to Brussels with the Rural Development Council, the interesting questions they were asking were what difference would Peace II make and how would we know if a Peace Programme had been successful? That was a key question. Since we have had this paper done, we have circulated it and they have come back to us and have been extremely interested in following up some of the issues which only demonstrates that it is not just counting the heads, counting the numbers on this; there is a qualitative and very difficult job which has to be done.
302. Just in support of what Martin McDonald was saying, those parameters and targets need to be set and thought through so that people know what we are going to do and can see that that has been done.
303. The Chairman: Thank you very much for your presentation and for taking questions.TOP
COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
Strongly economic A
Strongly economic and B some social
Some economic and Csome social
Strongly social and Dsome economic
Strongly social E
Some social F
TABLE TO ANNEX D
EXAMPLES OF TYPES OF ACTIVITIES FUNDED UNDER SOCIAL INCLUSION IN PEACE I ELIGIBLE TO BE FUNDED UNDER OTHER PRIORITIES/MEASURES IN PEACE II
Peace I (Social Inclusion)
Peace II (Economic Renewal & Transition (ESF))
Measure 4.1 (3.6% of total Programme)
Measure 4.3 (5.1% of total Programme)
Measure 4.4 (3.9% of total Programme)
COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
INQUIRY INTO EUROPEAN UNION STRUCTURAL FUNDS -
PEACE II PROGRAMME
WRITTEN SUBMISSION BY:
CROSS BORDER COMMUNITY WORKERS NETWORK
1.1 This paper sets out the perspective of the Cross Border Community Workers Network on the issues pertinent to the Evidence Session on European Union Structural Funds and Community Support Framework namely; economic & social allocations, implementing mechanisms, the 'gap' between PEACE Programmes and sustainability.
1.2 The recommendations set out in this paper reflect the combined viewpoints and experience of Network members who have been working cross-border and sharing knowledge and experience of the process of cross-border community development over the past two years.
1.3 Cross-border development is a long-term, complicated and fragile process. However, the benefits experienced over the past five years are obvious signs that investment of time and resources in cross-border community development has had definite, tangible and positive outcomes.
1.4 These benefits include; the increased understanding and contact between community groups - according to statistics the Peace and Reconciliation funding alone has contributed to the formation of almost 2,000 cross-border links; the range of practical co-operative projects; shared knowledge and experience; the increasing numbers of community networks and; the increased capacity and confidence of local communities.
1.5 It is our experience that a significant number of groups find cross-border activities to be the ideal first step towards their own group facing their differences at a local level. By bringing their members away to a different setting and encountering other groups, they are more adept and capable to begin facing difference in their own communities. Cross-border co-operation therefore improves relationships between communities on a cross-border basis and between communities within Northern Ireland.
1.6 It is the opinion of the Network that the PEACE II Programme should build on this work already begun in terms of cross-border co-operation, relationship-building and reconciliation. It is essential that groups at all levels and stages of the process of cross-border community development are supported under the PEACE II Programme.
2.0 Cross Border Community Workers Network
2.1 The Cross Border Community Workers Network was formed in October 1997 by a group of seven cross-border community workers in recognition of the distinct needs of community workers in this rapidly developing areas of work. Since that time membership of the Network has risen to over seventy, representing cross-border community-led projects across the range of social, cultural and economic activities.
2.2 The Network aims to:
- be a confidential source of support/direction and feedback for cross-border community workers
- provide a forum for exchange of information
- create space for reflection on the theory and practice of cross-border community work
- act as a mechanism for co-ordination and co-operation between projects
- be a think-tank for developing a strategy for cross-border community work
2.3 The Network has been successful in attracting funding from TTVT under measure 3.4 of the EUSSPPR. Through this funding a part-time Administrator/Research Officer has been employed, training has been provided to members, a study visit to other European Border Regions was undertaken and a conference and AGM are to be held in Autumn 2000.
Ratio of Funding Allocations:
3.1 An increase in focus on economic development in PEACE II is a cause for concern among Network members as the Peace and Reconciliation programme has supported a range of projects and initiatives for which no alternative, or very limited other funding exists.
3.2 It is our view that the majority of funding under the PEACE II Programme should be allocated to social development initiatives. A smaller allocation for economic development should be used to support economic activity which supports social development (for example social economy initiatives) and economic activity in areas severely affected by the conflict etc. This would be in keeping with the focus of the programme on peace-building activities and the theme of renewal and sustainability in the region.
3.3 The CBCWN believe that the most suitable form of implementing mechanisms for dealing with community development activities are;
- Independent, credible and responsible voluntary sector organisations with partnership advisory/selection committees, and locally based development supports
3.4 Best practice from existing Intermediary Funding Bodies should be incorporated into any new mechanisms designed. In our view, NIVT/ADM/CPA are the organisations with best practice in terms of cross-border community development and reconciliation. The models devised under the EUSSPPR for the operation of intermediary funding bodies, Advisory Groups and Monitoring Committees should be adopted for the implementation of PEACE II and the CSF.
'Gap' between the Peace Programmes:
3.5 A number of our member's projects have already been forced to close their doors and projects which have been doing valuable work towards social inclusion, peace and reconciliation have begun to collapse.
3.6 A possible means whereby these, and other projects, can be supported in the gap between Programmes is for the government departments to establish a transitional fund which would ensure continuity.
Sustainability of Projects:
3.7 In order to achieve the aims of the PEACE II Programme and the overall, integrated development of the region, we agree that it will be crucial to devise mechanisms whereby the energy and impact of community-led-cross-border projects can be sustained. Potential examples of this are as follows;
- ongoing funding mechanisms, such as the Endowment Fund
- core funding support for five year plans which last over the life of the Programme
- continuation funding for projects supported under the current Programme
- cross-sectoral, cross-boarder and inter-sectoral partnerships
- integrated local plans
- social economy projects
- free access to information
- networking opportunities
These activities should be investigated as strategies whereby projects and their impact can be secured over longer time periods.
4.0 What is your view on the appropriate ratio for allocating funds to (a) social, (b) economic projects?
4.1 The theme of the PEACE II Programme is renewal and sustainability. It is vital however that the Programme does not focus solely on economic development at the exclusion of social/community development. Both objectives and/or themes must operate in tandem if sustainable regeneration of the boarder regions is to be achieved.
4.2 Economic development has long received EU support through the INTERREG, LEADER and IFI Programmes. The support for social and community development activities under the current Peace and Reconciliation Programme represents a different but related focus which has ensured that all sectors and types of activity are supported by EU Funding.
4.3 Each EU Programme theoretically has a different focus. It is the network's view that programmes such as INTERREG and the IFI are sufficient in terms of supporting large-scale, public and private sector economic development. It is important that the social & socio-economic focus of the current Peace & Reconciliation Programme is strengthened and developed. The different but related focus of such funding initiatives will ensure that all sectors and types of activities are supported.
4.4 An increase in focus on economic development is a cause for concern among Network members. Although the argument that projects such as ours should seek alternative sources of funding is valid, and indeed many of our members have done so, the fact is that the Peace & Reconciliation programme has supported a range of projects and initiatives for which no alternative, or very limited other funding exists.
4.5 It is our view that the majority of funding under the PEACE II Programme should be allocated to social development initiatives. A smaller allocation for economic development should be used to support economic activity which supports social development (for example social economy initiatives) and economic activity in areas severely affected by the conflict etc. This would be in keeping with the focus of the Programme on peace-building activities and the theme of renewal and sustainability in the region.
4.6 The CBCWN feel strongly that social economy initiatives in a number of areas should be supported in the new programme. The following list suggests some areas with potential for the development of social economy initiatives;
- Community Care
- Integration for Young People
- Information & Communication Technology
- Heritage & Local Culture
- Local Public Transport
These areas of activity would be inclusive of groups such as carers, people with disabilities, the aged, travellers and other excluded groups.
5.0 What delivery structures/mechanisms should be adopted for assessing, approving and supervising/monitoring the allocation and use of funds?
5.1 The CBCWN believe that the most suitable form of implementing mechanisms for dealing with community development activities are;
- Independent, credible and reasonable voluntary sector organisations with partnership advisory/selection committees, and locally based development supports.
5.2 Best practice from existing Intermediary Funding Bodies should be incorporated into any new mechanisms designed. In our view, NIVT/ADM/CPA are the organisations with best practice in terms of cross-border community development and reconciliation.
5.3 The overall Monitoring of PEACE II should be carried out by the EU Special Programmes Body as instituted within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, while implementation should be carried out by the intermediary funding bodies with transparent structures. The models devised under the EUSSPPR for the operation of intermediary funding bodies, Advisory Groups and Monitoring Committees should be adopted for the implementation of PEACE II and the CSF.
6.0 Is there a 'gap' in funding between the ending of the PEACE I Programme and commencement of the PEACE II Programme and how will this impact on projects under your control?
6.1 It is likely that a hiatus will exist between the completion of the current Programme and its successor. There is danger that if mechanisms are not employed to financially support projects during this hiatus, the momentum and impact of a sizeable number of projects will be lost.
6.2 Already a number of our member's projects have been forced to close their doors and projects which have been doing valuable work towards social inclusion, peace and reconciliation have begun to collapse. Attached are some examples of such projects.
6.3 A possible means whereby these projects can be supported in the gap between Programmes is for the government departments to establish a transitional fund which would ensure continuity. The amount of this fund could be deducted from actual Peace & Reconciliation II funds when these are received from the EU.
6.4 If projects are forced to close their doors now, the long-term impact of funding and effort already invested will never be realised, valuable expertise will be lost, expectations raised within the communities will be dashed, groups and projects will have to revert to relying on voluntary effort which requires more time and effort and which takes longer to active results.
6.5 The consequences of this for cross-boarder work are severe. It is unlikely that the interest which groups currently show in beginning cross-boarder work will ever be realised if mechanisms are not employed to ensure continuity between programmes. The additional and perhaps near impossible effort which voluntary members will be required to give in terms of time and resources to initiate new cross-boarder work is not, in practical terms, feasible.
7.0 What proposals would you make to ensure that projects currently under your control become self-sufficient by he end of the PEACE II Programme?
7.1 In order to achieve the aims of the PEACE II Programme and the overall, integrated development of the region, we agree that it will be crucial to devise mechanisms whereby the energy and impact of community-led cross-boarder projects can be sustained. Potential examples of this are as follows:
- ongoing funding mechanisms, such as the Endowment Fund
- core funding support for five year plans which last over the life of the Programme
- continuation funding for projects supported under the current Programme
- cross-sectoral, cross-boarder and inter-sectoral partnerships
- integrated local plans
- social economy projects
- free access to information
- networking opportunities
These activities should be investigated as strategies whereby projects and their impact can be secured over longer time periods.
ADoPT - (the Association for the Development of Pettigo and Tullyhommon)
The border village of Pettigo and Tullyhommon has suffered a severe social and economic decline over the period since the border was formed and particularly during the years of the troubles. Pettigo has the unique distinction of straddling the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The part in Co. Donegal is called Pettigo, while the other part in Co. Fermanagh is called Tullyhommon. The whole village is normally referred to as Pettigo. The area is one of outstanding beauty with a great many lakes including Lough Derg and part of Lough Erne.
High unemployment and a declining population are major problems, but in recent years progress has been made to improve the environmental and economic life in the village through funding from the International Fund for Ireland. In 1996 the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation gave ADoPT a seeding grant to draw up a development plan for Pettigo and Tullyhommon.
The drawing up of this plan was as a result of consultations with all groups in the locality as well as communities in Lettercran and Bannagh. Actions which some groups would undertake individually were drawn up and a common economic development plan was agreed on. The communities of Lettercran and Bannagh have formed a joint association to strengthen cross-boarder and cross-community links. These groups have decided to pursue the establishment of a local Community Resource Centre to cater for the social needs of all the community and to have members from both sides of the border and all regions represented on the board of ADoPT.
ADoPT was founded in 1989 to address the problems in Pettigo and the surrounding area. A meeting was held by Mgr. McSorley who was parish priest at the time and a committee was formed. In 1991 with the assistance of North West Community Development Institute (NWCDI), the Association was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee.
AdoPT is both a cross-border and a cross-community association. Its directors are volunteers from both communities who work towards a common goal, i.e. 'the development of Pettigo and Tullyhommon'. The company currently employs a development officer who works with a wide range of groups to promote the development of the area. AdoPT also sponsors a Community Employment Scheme with eleven workers and one supervisor.
In a unique cross-boarder project the village of Pettigo/Tullyhommon received a substantial aid package, £1.4 million most of which was provided by the International Fund for Ireland under the Fund's Community Regeneration and improvement Special Programme (CRISP). The funding was awarded for a series of environmental and tourism initiatives in the area including:
- Environmental Improvements in Main Street and Tullyhommon
- Urban Development Programme
- Community Building (The former AIB Bank Building in Main Street was renovated and now houses the AdoPT office.)
- Lough Derg Journey visitors' centre and the St Davog Boat
- Lough Derg Shore Improvements
AdoPT continues to work to improve all aspects of the social and economic life of the area.
CUMANN GAELACH CHNOC NA ROS DOIRE
Cumann Gaelach Chnoc na Ros Doire is a cultural organisation based, although not exclusively in Derry. An Cumann is a registered charity approved by Inland Revenue. (Registration Number XR2 1498)
It was established as a community based organisation in 1988 by a group of cultural enthusiasts to promote the educational benefits of the Irish language and culture and meet the growing demand for formalised courses.
Since its inception An Cumann has seen a dramatic increase in its range of activities and the number of people directly involved in the acquisition of its Learning Programme.
The myriad activities include language courses, traditional music, storytelling, art projects, cultural exchanges, exhibitions, workshops, aster classes and seminars, hosting visits for foreign nationals, and the annual West A'Live Festival.
An Cumann is proud of its cross-community links and equal opportunities philosophy which endeavours to take cultural activities beyond the political and into the social and educational world. The various activities attract diverse age groups, genders and participants from both sides of the ubiquitous divide.
An Cumann is conscious of the exclusively of the Irish language and promotes many of its activities as bilingual events It also challenges the perception that the Irish language and culture are in terminal decline. Rather they are clearly a vibrant and exciting aspect of the Irish psyche which has attained a global respect and interest.
The active cross-border/community element to our work brings all age groups together in joint activities based on language, music, arts, crafts and other facets of Irish culture. An Cumann suggests that its endeavours actively promote a clear reconciliation message which will inevitably contribute to the healing process in our society.
Cumann Gaelach Chnoc na Ros Doire
2 Northland Villas
THE NORTH FERMANAGH DONEGAL PARTNERSHIP
The North Fermanagh Donegal Partnership consists of seven community groups. These are:
- Ardess Community Association
- Kesh Community Association
- Ederney Community Development Trust
- Bannagh Community Association
- Lettercran Community Association
- The Association for the Development of Pettigo & Tullyhommon (ADoPT)
- Beleek & District Social Development Club
The partnership was formed in December 1996 and since that time has undertaken a number of projects and continues to do so. These include a play performed in Bannagh Hall called "The Shopper and the Boy" by Dave Duggan (who has since been nominated for an Oscar for the film 'Dance Lexie Dance'). School children throughout the communities in the NFDP area have taken part in projects called 'A Week of Willow', 'Set in Stone' and 'A Bash with Trash' in Ardess Craft Centre. Another project was the staging of a 'Floating Theatre' in conjunction with Fermanagh District Council and NIVT. Conal Kearney (director) coached a number of enthusiastic school children to perform a play based on the old Celtic legend 'The Tain'. In April 2000 the NFDP hopes to reunite these children in Bannagh Hall, where they will work alongside a professional artist in a project to mark the Millennium. Cultural exchange evenings have also been held for people of all ages in community halls in Bannagh and Lettercran.
NFDP is at present engaging in research into a proposed project to renovate and old mill in Pettigo, Co. Donegal, just across the border from Co. Fermanagh. Progress in this project plus the others can be found in the quarterly newsletter the 'NFDP News'.
The Partnership has produced its own tourist brochure for the area which is available from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Bord Failte and many other outlets.
Copies are still available from NFDP office at 29a Main Street, Kesh.
NFDP hopes to continue to promote social, cultural and economic growth in the area through cross-community and cross-border relations.
North Fermanagh Donegal Partnership
29A Main Street
SLIABH BEAGH CROSS-BORDER PARTNERSHIP LTD.
The Sliabh Beagh Cross-Border Partnership is an umbrella organisation for eleven community groups in the area of Sliabh Beagh Mountain, which runs parallel to the border between counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Monaghan. The groups are primarily concerned with the social and economic betterment of their communities, which are in a highly deprived and marginalised border region. The Sliabh Beagh Strategy is comprised of two parts. Firstly, there is a focus on the development of individual projects by the eleven member groups. Secondly, there are the region wide initiatives such as walks, cycling trails, arts programmes, training programmes and a training and resource centre. The Partnership's programmes are co-ordinated by a development officer with the assistance of an administrator, a training officer, a walks project officer and an arts project officer.
The Training and Resource Centre has a computer training room, a training room and information resources and is for cross-border use. There are also 2 modules of the community development certificate being taught as well as OCN courses.
The Walking and Cycling Trails project involves 200 miles of walking and cycling trails in the three counties and four annual walking festivals.
The Mapping Project aims to facilitate the promotion of the Sliabh Beagh area by the production of brochures and a map which shows the complete area. This is being done in partnership with the Erne East Based Strategy, Creevy Development Association and ADoPT.
An Arts, Culture and Crafts Programme has been set up to run until the end of September 2000. This will include two festival events and 77 workshops.
The Tourism Training Project delivers the skills required locally and encourages people in the communities to consider setting up their own tourism based businesses. The programme has the option for participants to receive accreditation for their work.
The Enhancing Communication Project links the 11 community Groups and the Sliabh Beagh office through the internet.
Sliabh Beagh Cross-Border Partnership Ltd & Sliabh Beagh Development Association
Units 7 & 8
Roslea Enterprise Centre
CSF - Community Support Framework
CIP - Community Initiative Programme
EAGGF - European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund
EC - European Commission
ERDF - European Development Fund
ESF - European Structural Funds
EUSSPPR - European Union Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation
FIFG - Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance
IFB - Intermediate Funding Bodies
IFI - International Fund for Ireland
MA - Managing Authority
MC - Monitoring Committee
MS - Member State
NIPB - Northern Ireland Partnership Board
NIVT - Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust
OP - Operational Programme
PA - Payment Authority
PC - Programme Complement
RCN - Rural Community Network
RDC - Rural Development Council for Northern Ireland
SEUPIB - Special European Union Programmes Implementation Body