Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Social Investment Fund

Posted on July 5, 2012 by stephennicholl Some time ago I posted an article about the Social Investment Fund which highlighted my scepticism about the process. Having recently attended a briefing by departmental officials I have to say my scepticism was probably underplayed. Focussing on the Northern Trust area there is to be one working group for the entire area covering 10 councils. The 10 councils will have to agree on one individual to represent local government. There will be a further 3 statutory representatives who will only be appointed after the area plans are determined and the most relevant departments are identified. There will be 4 political reps chosen by d’Hondt based on party strength in the Northern Trust area. There will be 4 community reps representing the community sector from Magherafelt to Coleraine, Ballycastle to Newtownabbey and everywhere in between. When questioned about the timescale to develop an area plan based on targeting need in such a wide area the answer was that OFMDFM were confident it could be done in three months. When questioned about who would be responsible for approving grants for delivery of services the answer was the working group. When questioned about the legal status of the group to protect members the answer was that they would expect one agency to be lead agency and bear all responsibility. (Note: since only the local government rep will be appointed and local government will be the only statutory agency on the group guess who will be leading) When questioned about the application and tender process as well as the development of business plans it was pointed out that the business plans would be developed in parallel with the area planning process. When it was pointed out that you could only know what projects would come forward once you knew what was in the area plan the answer was that there were very good projects with business plans sitting on the shelf just waiting for funding and they would form the basis of the area plan. The reason why departments won’t be around the table at the start, they expect to draw down funds and don’t want it to look like a carve up. Instead they will join after they get the money. So, there you go, open and transparent government NI style.

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