Lone dissenter in call to support Avondhu Blackwater Partnership in Fermoy
Cllr Pa O'Driscoll was the lone dissenter in supporting a motion before Fermoy Town Council last week to support Avondhu Backwater Partnership which is under threat from proposed Government changes.
Their monthly meeting was held on the same night that a public meeting called by ABP to rally support from communities was taking place.
Cllr John Murphy had the motion before the town council meeting, that they give every support possible to the local development company's bid to retain its present status. Cllr Noel Barnes seconded the motion.
Cllr Murphy said it was a backward step. ABP had done very good work. He pointed to plans they have for the viaduct. "Rural garda stations, post offices are closing, now this," he said. Cllr Barnes said he'd be all for supporting ABP. "They're doing a fantastic job."
Cllr Tadhg O'Donovan agreed but proposed an addendum to the motion that would include a course of action, calling on all local authorities to write to Minister Phil Hogan stating their opposition to the plan. He said however that he did think last year was the time for action. "It was suggested at one time that it was a political matter and the development companies wouldn't get involved. They're now getting involved," he said.
Cllr Noel McCarthy seconded the addendum.
Cllr O'Driscoll said he wasn't going to support the motion saying he didn't accept it would make it harder for community projects to get funding. There are community and amenity grants and arts grants that weren't hard to access and, he said, some LEADER companies were spending more in administration than they were giving out in grants.
"It's a national issue. I support the reform. It will probably end the duplication of applications. Avondhu Blackwater Partnership are doing a good job for the most part. I think a lot of information has been given out that's not entirely accurate."
The main problem, in his opinion, was a vacuum of information. "There's so much vagueness in the 'Putting People First' document. Nobody knows what's happening post May 23rd. When you seek more information it gets more vague. People are bound to be afraid of losing something that has worked well."
Cllr McCarthy said there is 'a fear factor' among community groups. "There aren't the staff levels in the council to do this work. I think Avondhu Blackwater is very well run. I accept that others may not be." He fully supported ABP.
Cllr Michael Hanley said that no-one has any information. "The Minister is being seriously unfair. It's a major stroke. I don't see why due diligence shouldn't be done on them and on County Enterprise Boards, it wouldn't be hard to find out who the naughty boys are. Keep the good ones. It will put an undue burden on councillors," Cllr Hanley said.
Mayor Olive Corcoran agreed with Cllr O'Driscoll 'up to a point'. "ABP has been run very well. You put people in jobs, maybe you put in too many but they are doing a good job. Where will they go? Their jobs will be lost. It's not about efficiency. It's about making savings. My main concern is for staff," she said.
Town manager Niall Healy said it was too early to say how it will pan out. "Avondhu Blackwater has an enviable reputation and we are lucky to be able to work with such an innovative company who have delivered such excellent projects," he said. He did however give an example of something that happened in Galway recently when three different courses for long term unemployed people were run simultaneously by different agencies. It was to rule out that kind of duplication the changes are being proposed, to have more cohesion and also to reduce administration and management overheads. He said between 15 and 20% of their funding goes on administration costs. ABP were at the lower end of that.
It was up to the Government to check and get rid of those LEADER companies not working properly and retain the ones that were,the Mayor repeated.
The motion with the addendum was put to a vote and supported by all but Cllr O'Driscoll.
Tuesday 29th April 3:17pm