Chairman fears for future of Wexford Local Development
A SERVICE that has supported more than 33,000 people in enterprises in County Wexford may now be in for a sad long goodbye, its chairman told more than 400 entrepreneurs, and politicians at a Wexford Local Development showcase seminar at the Talbot Hotel recently.
Community leaders and more than 30 of the county's leading business entrepreneurs, some of them exporting to other countries, exhibited their achievements in a showcase in the Slaney Suite in the Talbot.
Pat Rath, chairman of Wexford Local Development made an impassioned plea to Minister Phil Hogan and the Government to preserve the successful WLD model which had been built up over 23 years and which supported thousands of people as individuals, communities and enterprises in their effort to improve the quality of their lives.
'We who have rolled the services out did it in a fair transparent and honourable way. We did it with our heart in the communities. We actually didn't do it for money – we were volunteers.
'We got no allowances. We did it because we loved our community. I am saddened to see the demise of our organisation as we knew it. An organisation that was built on the ground- built with ordinary people and built with volunteers,' he said.
Government reforms which will result in major changes in the way WLD operates could result in the loss of 80 Wexford jobs and over 20 years of experience in delivering community and development work in the county.
WLD is a community-based partnership organisation which runs initiatives ranging from community and rural development to employment and enterprise supports and training and education.
It manages the Warm Project and the Rural Transport Priogramme and provides specialist support to the Travelling Community and to people experiencing addiction.
'If you pull our main source of funding, quite simply the whole infrastructure will fall and programmes and services we provide to individuals and communities in County Wexford, will not survive,' warned Programmes Manager Clare Ryan.
A wide range of exhibitors and speakers took part in the showcase including Alan Ryan, the Manager of Hook Tourism Group who said the project owed much of its success to the support of WLD.
Paul O' Keeffe of Tagoat Youth Group said the group valued its personal relationship with WLD – 'the sense that we are in this together, growing and developing together.'
Stephen Doyle of Wexford Youth Action Group said WLD had inspired him to become an active citizen.
The Government recently announced that the local authority will be the applicant for the next Leader programme and also signalled the prospect of cuts in funding along with commercial tendering for community development projects. 'These are very serious developments that could open the door to the privatisation of essential community services,' said CEO Brian Kehoe.
'Minister Phil Hogan is on record as saying that private companies will be eligible to tender which means it is quite possible that one of the county's largest social inclusion programmes could, in the future, be delivered by private companies even from outside the State,' he said.
But Wexford Local Development is determined to meet the new challenges head on, according to WLD chairperson Pat Rath.
'Notwithstanding the challenges that lie ahead, we are confident that our expertise, experience and flexibility will secure our future and ensure that we continue the work we have been involved in,' he said.