District’s £2.7m renewal funding threat

Dungannon enterprise centre
Dungannon enterprise centre

A community regeneration programme, which has pumped just over £2.7m into the Dungannon District in the last five years, is now under threat.

The neighbourhood renewal scheme, which is funded by the Department of Social Development, is designed to boost decaying communities and areas of deprivation.

As well as the £1.5m, which has flowed into voluntary and statutory organisations in Dungannon such as STEP, First Steps Women Centre, and Dungannon Enterprise Centre, a further £1.2m has been invested in Coalisland organisations.

Across Northern Ireland, around £28m was spent on the programme in the last year, but further investment in the scheme is in doubt, along with cuts to the Housing Executive, which could face “significant reductions” in its direct grants.

Nelson McCausland’s Department for Social Development has to find savings of £13.5m by the end of March,while Stephen Farry’s Department of Employment and Learning must cut into its budget even further to the tune of £16.5m in the next six months.

His department said: “Consideration will have to be given as to whether we can sustain the current levels of investment in neighbourhood renewal schemes.

“Similarly, while the department would seek to protect the existing voluntary sector and community support programmes, the department cannot guarantee that these budgets will emerge unscathed from this process.”

Spending on the neighbourhood renewal schemes across Northern Ireland amounted to more than £28m last year. The aim was to bring together all Government departments working with local people to tackle disadvantage and deprivation.

Neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10% of wards across Northern Ireland were identified and a total of 36 areas aided.A spokesperson for the department said that the minister, Mervyn Storey, still has to finalise decisions.