Laois Offaly TD backs Sinn Féin community wealth plan to help 'deprived midlands'

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois TD launches community wealth proposal for 'deprived Midlands'

A Laois Offaly TD is backing Sinn Féin's proposal to keep public jobs and money within counties in the midlands and other regions.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley says that the midlands is one of the most deprived areas in Ireland.

He is asking county councils and semi-state companies to shop local by engaging local contractors for jobs to create a "circular economy".

This Tuesday March 23 Deputy Stanley launched Sinn Féin’s proposals for Community Wealth Building (CWB), described by him as a powerful model to assist rural economic development.

“We have examined this and I firmly believe that it can be utilised here in the midlands to boost employment. CWB seeks to use existing local and regional resources along with the spend by national and local Government public bodies to strengthen the local economy and regions.

“The model of CWB has proved to be very successful in locations such as Preston in England, North Ayrshire in Scotland and Cleveland in the United States. These proposals are practical and workable.

“The reality is that the current economic model in Ireland isn’t meeting the needs of many workers, families and communities across the midlands,’’ Dep Stanley said.

He points to CSO data that shows the region to be one of the most deprived in Ireland with 1 in 5 unable to afford basic living requirements. He says that 20% of people live in deprivation and disposable income per person is 15% lower in the midlands compared to the national average.

“We need to be bold in setting out a new approach to the economy where we have balanced economic development and wealth is retained in our towns and counties rather than being extracted,’’ he said.

The CWB proposal aims to retain as much wealth as possible through local supply chains and targeted public procurement contracts for local businesses. Keeping procurement contracts for SMEs in the locality to create a circular economy where wealth can be retained, and life can be brought back to local towns.

“Key local bodies, like Bord na Móna and Laois and Offaly County Councils, are central to the model, they have the resources and facilities to create local employment and set a standard for high quality, sustainable jobs.

“Over 20,000 commuters leave Laois and Offaly for work each day, 8,692 from Offaly and 11,477 from Laois. By working with local business, providing  procurement contracts, and encouraging key institutions to do likewise, we can create more quality jobs locally and improve people’s quality of life.

“Our proposal is about developing local assets and using the public bodies in such a way that wealth is added to our communities, not extracted. We believe that CWB has the potential to maximise the potential of Laois and Offaly,” Deputy Stanley said.