At last I am writing my first blog report of my role on County Clares Economic Development and Enterprise SPC. I’ve been there almost 2 years and I’m feeling comfortable enough to write about it now. It’s run under chatham house rules so I won’t quote anyone.
Some background. Strategic Policy Committees (SPC) are structured around the main functions of councils. They are made up of elected councillors and other representatives of the social partners and other sectoral interests. Each SPC is chaired by an elected councillor and supported by a director of services. The task of the SPC is to assist and advise the council in the formulation, development and review of policy. Final policy decisions will ultimately rest with the full council acting as a body. There are currently four SPCs in Clare County Council. More here.
I was pleasantly surprised to be handed a leaflet about the plot to privatise water before the meeting started. Good to know not everybody in the room supports Irish Water.
Minutes from the last 2 meetings were agreed before we had a presentation by someone from Community Finance Ireland CFI. We had discussed CFI at the Public Participation Network PPN previously and decided that it was not our position to promote what is effectively a private bank. However here I was at a council SPC being given the sales pitch.Why? Whose idea was that? That’s what’s annoying about the SPC – members don’t set the agenda. Nobody asks what we would like to be put on the agenda. It just gets circulated a week before the meeting with whatever the council officials want us to discuss. The chair person probably signs off on it but it’s never up for discussion or suggestion. Changing that is on my to do list.
Next up we discussed the proposed draft Development Contribution Scheme. This is effectively the schedule of charges the council collect. We had an interesting discussion which included a debate on the costs to farmers and the new rates for domestic residential units caused a stir because the rural contribution is considerably lower than the urban. This was challenged by urban councillors and defended by rural ones based on a need to repopulate the rural areas. I got daggers looks when I questioned how it was good to reward one off houses when the cost of connecting them and providing services is higher than in an urban setting. It also makes people more dependent upon private vehicles and higher energy consumption. One councillor said he had recently learned that Irelands one off housing practice was not normal across Europe. Seriously? You can read national research and policy recommendations from the National Economic and Social Council, NESC here. Clare PPN recently hosted a housing workshop and have kick started a working group. You can find out more by contacting the PPN reps on the Planning and Housing SPC.
I can tell you that the draft contribution scheme will be out for public consultation in the coming weeks. It’s an interesting document and here is the existing one. It starts with some background:
“Clare County Council, in common with other local authorities throughout the state, is required to source considerable amounts of money annually to fund a variety of public infrastructure projects. Projects may include for example road construction and improvements, the construction and upgrading of water supply and the construction and upgrading of waste water systems. The Development Contribution Scheme also enables the Council to provide funding for amenities such as libraries, open spaces and playgrounds. Such infrastructure enables future development to proceed and provides amenities for our communities and visitors to the county.”
Next up was a brief update on the draft County Development Plan. It’s now in it’s final stages and should be ready to launch in spring 2017. With that the meeting finished and I disappeared to do an interview on Donald Trumps recent victory in the Presidential elections in the USA. Having listened to the exhilaration coming from Doonbeg I really had to mention the absolute disaster that man will be for our environment if he gets to implement half of the anti environment ideas he has promised. Here are the energy independence plans from his website which state:
“America possesses more combined coal, oil, and natural gas resources than any other nation on Earth. These resources represent trillions of dollars in economic output and countless American jobs, particularly for the poorest Americans.
Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel producers, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters. We will streamline the permitting process for all energy projects, including the billions of dollars in projects held up by President Obama, and rescind the job-destroying executive actions under his Administration. We will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration. We will eliminate the highly invasive “Waters of the US” rule, and scrap the $5 trillion dollar Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and the Clean Power Plan and prevent these unilateral plans from increasing monthly electric bills by double-digits without any measurable effect on Earth’s climate. Energy is the lifeblood of modern society. It is the industry that fuels all other industries. We will lift the restrictions on American energy, and allow this wealth to pour into our communities. It’s all upside: more jobs, more revenues, more wealth, higher wages, and lower energy prices.”
Here’s hoping that if he doesn’t cop on the younger generation can topple him.
Did I mention the increased allocation to flooding in the development scheme? With increased rainfall, bad planning and rising seas that’s set to be the one area that will continue to need increased funding. Perhaps that should be made up of contributions from bog cutters, herd number levies or the usual fossil fuel tax increases. Dum de dum. Political hot potatoes. Nothing to see here!
14th November 2016