Public should embrace funding plan consultation

SIR, - A rare opportunity is opening up for communities within the readership of the Recorder to lobby for serious amounts of government investment. £80m is being made available by the Northern Ireland Executive over the next four years, targeted at creating job opportunities, tackling the causes of deprivation, supplying new community services and addressing dereliction. It should go without saying that these are four key areas of need right across the constituency of Strangford.
The money is bundled into a programme called the Social Investment Fund, and the Executive has just opened a period of consultation on their proposals. I, for one, sometimes think consultation serves only to delay decisions and prevent actions, and I have been critical in the past of the fact that, for example, the consultation process into the proposed Cohesion Sharing and Integration strategy, which will impact on every member of society, saw just 0.025% of the population attend public meetings.
However, having chaired a meeting between a community group and a third sector organisation this week, it is plain that sometimes the lack of consultation creates a poisonous atmosphere that is hard to overcome.
In the case of the Social Investment Fund, one critical aspect of the rollout which is open to consultation is how to put together the steering groups that will work on the ground, at community
level, and put forward proposals for how the money is spent. The consultation document puts forward four options, ranging from a "laying on of hands" by the Executive, to an open call for volunteers.
I would encourage your readers to think carefully about which option they think will best serve their community. The Consultation is run by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, and is available online.
Yours etc.,