Assembly Speech- Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy 2/3/2009

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Mr Speaker / Deputy Speaker

I rise today to support the motion brought forward by the Chair of the Social Development Committee.

The Neighbourhood Renewal programme was warmly welcomed in East Belfast as it offered a coherent way of addressing problems facing the most disadvantaged communities. 

In response the two Neighbourhood Partnerships in East – Tullycarnet & Inner East were among the first to deliver their Action Plans to DSD in 2005 – plans that were predicated on new relationships emerging between the community & voluntary sector and the key statutory agencies.

I can safely say that it has been recognised by BRO that the Plans that were produced in East Belfast were Strategic in nature and were thoughtfully put together with the best interests of the community and key local agencies at their centre.

To our great disappointment achieving the Actions that were set out has been almost impossible as the process to determine what would happen to existing funding commitments, made by BRO across Belfast, took precedence.

While it is clear that many of the projects receiving funding from BRO (Category 1 posts and latterly Category 2 posts) are important to the communities they serve – the process or lack of it has made a mockery of the Action Plan process. The new relationships that were required have only happened in spite of the process – often where the relationship between the community & the statutory organisation had existed prior to NR. 

Having been advised that BRO are now aware of their commitments up to March 2011 – it appears that there is no additional funding available for the Action Plans and indeed no process for even making any new  applications for funding.


Example

In August 2007 - Inner East NP secured 50% match funding from HE to support a new post of Urban Regeneration Officer – to oversee the roll out of the Inner East Regeneration Framework. This clearly represented an opportunity to demonstrate the statutory sector and the community sector working together. An application was completed which has been considered by BRO on several occasions and despite having approval in principle – it is now March 2009 & there appears little likelihood that it will be funded. 


A very negative message is being sent to all those who have spent time meeting on the Neighbourhood Partnerships - community organisations, representatives from the statutory agencies and indeed politicians – we need movement and investment soon as we will be even more reliant on the community sector and volunteers as the recession bites – particularly in places where the problems are already extremely complex.