WEAKNESSES IN local government in the Limerick region could derail the Government’s multimillion-euro scheme to regenerate the city’s most deprived estates, the project’s author has warned.
John Fitzgerald, chairman of the Limerick Regeneration Agencies, said yesterday he was concerned that a promised review of local government may not be concluded in time to help deliver the updated regeneration strategy.
“It was always envisaged the Limerick Regeneration Agencies would have five years to show what could be done and by then the review would be complete and we’d have a stronger and better resourced local authority to take over . . . I am concerned at the lack of progress,” said Mr Fitzgerald, who drew up the first report in 2007 advocating regeneration.
The estates in the regeneration plan – Moyross, Southill, St Mary’s Park and Ballinacurra Weston – straddle Limerick County Council and City Council complicating the task of co-ordinating a project that involves other state agencies such as the HSE and Garda.
A committee has recently been appointed to investigate the possibility of creating a unified local authority to create more effective local government. It is not clear though when its report will be published or if any changes that are proposed will be implemented in time to promote regeneration.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Fitzgerald said the Government would have to consider setting up an alternative structure to advance regeneration because the existing local authorities may not have the right skills.
He said this was a critical issue because Limerick Regeneration Agencies, which is co-ordinating many of the social initiatives currently taking place, was set up with a five-year lifespan. He said it was unclear whether local government would have the capacity and skills to take ownership of the regeneration process by 2013.
Mr Fitzgerald, who is a former manager of Dublin City Council, said a new system such as the one created to spearhead the Ballymun Regeneration scheme may be the best option.
Despite his concerns over the weak local government structures in Limerick, he expected the Government would give the green light for the agencies’ revised regeneration plan for Limerick.
The updated plan was tabled following concerns over the Government’s ability to meet the €1.6 billion price tag for the project.
This new proposal calls for €924 million public investment over 15 years, rather than 10 years, to build hundreds of new homes, roads and other amenities in the four deprived estates.
“If we don’t get a commitment then we would have a serious credibility problem and a lot of the gains we’ve made up to now would be lost,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
Limerick Regeneration Agencies will forward the updated plan to Government this week.
Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell said yesterday the Government should sign off on the new plan.
“Residents feel let down and are rapidly losing belief. All they have seen to date is the demolition of 400 houses, with not one new home built,” he said.
Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said the time for “prevarication and procrastination is long gone”.