Last week we were informed of restructuring of roles and directorships of the top 6 directors in the Council. One of the most significant changes is the re-allocation of the Culture and Community remit to Director Sonya Kavanagh in addition to her existing Economic remit. Director Peter Minnock, who had been director of Community, Culture and Planning, will now be free to focus on the increasingly demanding area of Planning
I would like to congratulate all directors with new responsibilities and wish them well in their new roles. With new roles come new ideas, fresh thinking and the motivation to set and achieve new goals.
In this context, I am calling on the (new) Director for Economic, Culture and Community to prioritise a number of areas for urgent progress
Town Hall Progress
I start by calling on the new Director to review the progress of Newbridge Town Hall to date with a view to ensuring that this community facility is worthy of the significant tax-payer investment, by maximising its return to the community. In particular, I would ask that the setting up of the management committee last year, in the absence of any consultation, be examined for both intent and effect. It is clear that while the management group consists of incredibly well-meaning people of the highest standing in the community, that best practices for the setting up of committees, including consultation, a transparent process for selection, a match between the purpose and expertise of the group and a clear, detailed remit were inexplicably not employed in this instance. This was unfair both to the management committee and to the community awaiting the Hall’s full return to use. I am particularly hopeful of progress in this regard as the new director for Culture herself last year presented to Cllrs the model of best practice for setting up new committees by the Council.
Strategic planning for Sports grounds and facilities
I call on the new Director to consult with both new and established sports clubs in the community with a view to identifying and distributing Council owned lands for recreational purposes in a way that meets the needs of both young and old in our community. Newbridge in particular needs an urgent review of recreational and sporting land/facilites. Last week I asked at our MD meeting that in the absence of existing protocol for the re-allocation of recreational land that clear and fair procedures for allocating land be developed in consultation with Councillors. Huge competition for a small pockets of land in Rickardstown, recently offered back to the Council by the Hockey Club, highlights the urgent need to have a clear strategy and transparent criteria for growing and expanding recreational activities in the area.
I fully endorse the contribution by my colleague, Cllr Suzanne Doyle that we conduct an audit of all the recreational land and facilities including land zoned but not used to see how best we might meet the growing sporting and recreational needs of our community. On the one hand we have established clubs, some bursting at the seams, others lacking investment. On the other we have new and exciting clubs and activities seeking home grounds from which to offer their services to our local young people. A constituent and resident of Newbridge has offered a free BMX Park worth at least 150,000 euros to the community. In over 2 years of meetings with relevant officials in the Council we have made much less progress than one would expect with such an exciting and free proposition. I am hopeful that a new Director of Service will conduct the audit proposed and seek to grab with both hands new opportunities being offered by new sports like BMXing, American Football Clubs and any other clubs can can promise to get us moving more while having even more fun.
Transparency around Arts services, facilities
I call on the Director to insist on some oversight of how services are provided by the Riverbank in return for the Councils investment which is to match that allocated recently by Minister Heather Humphries. Only recently, it has been to my attention that a local music group with an international following had their application to use the venue turned down, on the grounds that a “less formal” venue might suit them. This traditional band has played for Ambassadors and dignitaries around the world but are being turned away from this local venue. Nowhere in the plethora of paperwork and policy documents forwarded to me by the venue, can I find a justification for the decision. While I welcome the offer by the Riverbank to meet with me regarding their procedures – I am calling on the Director to ensure that community venues like the Riverbank and the Town Hall can be accessed fairly. Applicants venues turn away are equally as important in assessing fairness, as the applicants they accept. In this instance, the group turned away have been doubly unlucky. This group provide the musical element in Laochra Gael, a play written by a local playwright about 1916 which was inexplicably left out of the funding from the Decade of Commemorations committee last year. For the record, I am not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing. I am simply asking for transparency around who we support and fund in the Arts in Kildare. Artists, performers, taxpayers are all entitled to and deserve absolute clarity in the distribution of Council or State largesse.
I offer any and all support I can to Sonya Kavanagh the Director of Service in her new role. I have no doubt she will stamp her own effective, transparent and proactive authority on the directorate for the benefit of the entire County.
I would like to take the opportunity to wish all the Directors the very best in the respective directorates.