21/10/2008

MLA Calls For More Commitment, After Minister's £4m Northwest Funding

Margaret Ritchie's £4m allocation to community projects in the north west has been criticised by a local Sinn Fein MLA - who claims it won't go far enough.

Yesterday, the Social Development Minister unveiled a package for disadvantaged area under her department's Neighbourhood Renewal fund.

Ms Ritchie said: "I am determined to ensure that this funding will make a difference to the lives of people in these areas. That is why I have refocused financial support towards the provision of services that tackle disadvantage.

"I intend to allocate £4m to projects in the North West this financial year and, despite the current economic downturn, I am determined to continue to invest funding at this level in the next two years."

The Minister indicated that funding contracts for up to 50 projects in the North West would be issued over the coming months.

However, Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson suggested: "Many community groups are uncertain of their future due to a lack of clarity over if and when funding will be available. This award while welcome when it is split across 49 groups it will have little impact on the long term future on many of these groups.

"In order for these groups to have the ability to forward plan funding needs to be block granted.

"I am calling on the Minister and all the other Departments responsible for funding to come together so that community groups can find out early the level of funding they will receive for the foreseeable future allowing them to get on with their job of alleviating deprivation in the community," added the MLA.

Ms Ritchie argued that the funding will ensure 'much needed financial security'.

The Minister said: "Most organisations directly delivering on Neighbourhood Renewal priorities will be awarded contracts up to March 2011.

"This is great news for the groups involved who will for the first time be offered long term sustainability. Importantly the residents of some of the most deprived areas of Derry, Strabane and Limavady will benefit from the services provided," she added.

Ms Ritchie called on her Executive colleagues to make a concerted effort to ensure improvements are made in areas such as health, education and training.

"Change will only take place with the support of all my colleagues in the Executive," said the South Down MLA.

(PR/JM)

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