Bernie Commins and Aileen Hahesy
Communities in a number of disadvantaged areas across South Tipperary were shocked last week when it was confirmed that essential funding had been slashed by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG).
The Department will no longer support the employment of co-ordinators of the RAPID programme, an initiative that aims to improve quality of life and opportunities available to people living in the most disadvantaged urban areas. Additionally Pobal, which provides a community support budget to RAPID on behalf of the DECLG, will have no funding available for that purpose in 2013.
However council officials have pledged their support for the continuation of the programme which operates in Carrick-on-Suir and Tipperary Town and in a number of estates in Clonmel, although it is still not certain what funding avenues can be explored.
In December 2012 acting county manager Billy McEvoy received a letter from the DECLG which stated that funding had not been provided to meet ‘any portion of RAPID co-ordinators’ salaries’. The letter also stated that RAPID should continue as a focus of local authorities and local development companies, the latter under the Local Community Development Programme (LCDP).
Carrick-on-Suir Town Manager Pat Slattery gave an assurance at this week’s meeting of Carrick Town Council that the RAPID programme would continue in the town despite the cut to the scheme’s funding.
Mr Slattery said the Council needed to look at “more adventurous ways” of securing funding for the programme and he pledged to try and secure funding through the County Council.
Speaking to The Nationalist after the meeting, Mr Slattery further clarified that the RAPID Programme and its co-ordinators will continue as they are now with the local authority resourcing the positions.
He added that the local authority support of the RAPID Programme and its co-ordinators will continue up to the merger of North and South Tipperary Co. Councils in 2014 and he believed that support would continue after the merger, though RAPID may be under a different name by then.
Last week Sinead Carr, Clonmel Borough Manager, said that the progress made over the past ten years through RAPID would not be lost and said that she did not want a message of despair going out to communities, despite the funding cuts. “I want to give out some comfort to communities that we won’t be abandoning them and we will work with them in some shape or form,” she said.
However Carrick Town Council members have agreed to send a letter of opposition to Minister Phil Hogan. In the meantime, Mr Slattery said Clonmel RAPID co-ordinator Pat Holland would continue to fill in for Carrick-on-Suir’s co-ordinator Margo Hayes, until she returned from maternity leave.
Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, who proposed the letter said it was a very sad day for Carrick-on-Suir adding that Margo Hayes had been a staunch help to so many groups in the town when they were applying for many categories of funding.
“I am scared to think what is going to happen Carrick-on-Suir if we are going to lose this funding,” she told the meeting.
“I know that South Tipperary Development Company is there. Whether we can make an application to them to get some kind of funding to hold onto our co-ordinator for a while. I don’t know what the answer is.
“I am just extremely disappointed at a time when so many taxes and expenses are being brought on people. It’s the one thing the co-ordinator was doing was helping us to get money.
Independent Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald said Minister Hogan should remove the word community from his brief. He had done untold damage to the community and this country, he said.
Clonmel Borough Council also decided to send a letter to Minsiter Hogan, as well as Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Cllr Darren Ryan, who is the chairperson of the Clonmel RAPID Area Implementation Team (AIT) said that he was absolutely disgusted at the underhanded manner in which this cut was made.
“This was not announced publicly as part of Budget 2013, this was sent in a letter on the 12th December, and that day will be remebered as the day that the Government put a nail in the coffin of disadvantaged areas. This will be so detrimental to areas when RAPID has been so important,” he said.