Economic Strategic Policy Committee meeting 11th September 2017

The last thing I wanted this morning was to drive 50 minutes into Ennis to listen to more updates about what is being or has been done for the Clare economy by the local agencies. Yes it’s important to know the economic landscape of the county but as I looked around at my house, the backlog of a broken washing machine; still unpacking moving boxes 2 years later; the general need for a good cleaning; I wasn’t in the mood for another meeting to hear an update and listen to the same old area specific questions being raised by councillors eager to help bring jobs to their constituents. The answers don’t change and we spend an hour or more repeating the meeting of the previous update.

Agenda 11th September 2017-page-001However I forced myself to go along and represent the Public Participation Network as I have been elected to do. Little did I know we would come out having steered the committee on a new course that I hope it remains on.

Before the meeting I was approached by a councillor who wants to make sure we are involved in setting our own agenda. He was curious about committees I’d served on in other counties so I explained about working sub groups to focus on different items. The full committee set out their work plan, decide what issues require working groups and members decide which working groups to join.

So to the meeting. We had an update from the Industrial Development Association and the Local Enterprise Office. Great to get but the questions are always the same. The likelihood of a multinational company moving to North or West Clare is always going to be pretty slim. I understand and appreciate the updates but there is soooooooo much more to economic policy and much more we should be doing to generate and influence policy.

A recurring issue we discuss when the IDA are in the room came up again. It comes up at other times too so I was happy to hear the same councillor suggest we get more involved with addressing the issue. His proposal was well received by others on the committee and when it came to the head of the table it was proposed that the relevant agencies collaborate and come back to us with a report. Had I missed something??? I suggested the members needed to have more input to which I was told that SPC members submissions are always welcome.

So I proposed it in another way. More officially. I stated that I am happy to support our Ennis members being involved in working with the agencies on our behalf in a structured manner with meetings and minutes for transparency and accountability. I wanted it official so that it can be implemented. Other members agreed and we now have a team to work alongside the agencies to focus on that one issue that is not being dealt with.

By the time we got to any other business we’d been there 2 hours. In other words we had spent our entire meeting on the agenda prescribed by the administration rehashing the same issues over and over. At least this time we had a focus group going away to address one of those issues.

The councillor who wants us setting our own agenda was told he had a minute when he raised the issue in AOB. He officially requested that at our next meeting we allocate some time to prepare a work plan for 2018. That’s how committees work elsewhere, how companies operate and may seem logical to everyone else but it’s not common in SPCs. To date 2 agenda items, speakers I had proposed and were agreed, still haven’t happened. It is archaic that we had to fight to lay out our own work plan but that is Ireland inc.

Needless to say when it got to my other business everyone was shuffling their papers gesturing towards the door. I stated that I hated the fact that when it gets to this stage of the meeting, the only time members can be proactive and raise issues not prescribed, we are hurried along and our input is curtailed. I stated that I had something to say and it deserves to be listened to. It all went very quiet. I explained that I felt Clare could be more proactive when it comes to national policy. Having worked on policy at national level I feel that shaping the policy is much better than trying to change it after the fact. That when there’s a consultation we should make submissions. I highlighted the recent National Risk Assessment and Irelands Bioeconomy as two that we should at least be discussing if not engaging with. When I had finished a couple of councillors suggested that we start the next meeting with my giving a presentation on the national policy our Economic SPC could proactively influence. Now where did I put my box of policy docs…

The last meetings minutes passed – Minutes of SPC meeting 17th July 2017

Theresa O’Donohoe 11th September 2017

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