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Concern at impact of announcement on future of Neighbourhood Renewal

13 March, 2008

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA Fra McCann MLA has expressed concern about the future of a number of projects funded through the Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme and called for further clarification following the statement from the Minister of Social Development on the 10th of March.

Margaret Ritchie announced that she was extending funding for 3 years, but that funding would stop for some groups who will inevitably close.

Mr McCann said:

"Many of the groups who are funded through Neighbourhood Renewal provide invaluable services in some of our most deprived communities. Workers have been placed on protective notice and there is huge uncertainty. While this announcement commits to a 3 year funding for some groups others are left not knowing what their future is.

"We need clarity. What groups are not going to get funding? Where are they located? What roles do they play within their communities? Who will suffer as a result of their closure? Has an equality assessment been carried out to determine the impact of these cuts?

"The uncertainty in the Minister's statement will devastate many of those community and statutory groups who have come together, at the request of the department, to form probably the most effective partnerships many areas have seen.

"There is added uncertainty because Margaret Ritchie has also announced that responsibility for funding will be given to local Councils. Yet, Councils will have difficulties in taking over these schemes, particularly those that are already starved of cash.

"It is my understanding that local offices were not even made aware of this major policy change. There is a need for a much fuller explanation of what is going on. This is bad practice at its worst." ENDS

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