Developing a Strategy for the Northern and Western Region

The Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Region will implement the targets set out in the newly published National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040.  The WDC recently made a submission on the Issues Paper for the Strategy for the Northern and Western region and it can be downloaded here (or you can read the summary here).

The Northern and Western Region probably has the most challenging targets to meet in Ireland 2040 with a target of a population increase of 160,000-180,000 people and 115,000 jobs in the region.  However, when broken down into annual growth rates over the next 21 years (2019-2040) the targets appear more manageable,  For example the target that larger towns should grow by 40% to 2040 is an annualised growth rate of 1.62% p.a. for 21 years while rural population growth of 15% over the period amounts to less one percent (0.67%) annual growth.  Galway, which has the largest growth target of 50-60% to achieve a population of at least 120,000 can do this with an annual growth rate of 1.95%.  Nonetheless, these are ambitious targets and achieving them will need considerable resources and direction.

Ireland 2040 also places a significant responsibility on the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) in particular and the urban centres of Galway, Sligo and Letterkenny, as well as other large towns, as the key drivers in the region.  Some of these urban centres, which are targeted for 40% growth in the NWRA area, are not very well connected though they may be well located to serve as a driver for their region. These towns need their connectivity improvements prioritised so that they have some chance to achieve the planned targets.

Successful, sustainable regional growth will require a clear Strategy with strong goals and objectives, appropriate resources, a well-developed implementation process and an implementation body with the capacity, resources and powers to achieve co-ordinated action.

Population & Employment

As was noted throughout the WDC submission, the solution to maintaining and growing the regional population is the availability of employment, which in turn requires supporting policy for infrastructural development, a strategy for education and skills and stimulation of entrepreneurship and enterprise growth.  Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for regional development.  When they work together they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated policy approach.

The RSES should be explicit on the targeted location of jobs within the Northern & Western Region and the balance between jobs growth in Galway city, large towns and the rest of the Region.  These targets should be supported by a clear statement on how employment growth at different spatial scales will be facilitated and supported through the RSES.  It is important that the Strategy is clearly focused on creating real opportunities to keep people living in the region and to attract more people, whether to cities, towns or rural areas.

It should be remembered that during the early part of this century (2000-2007), when there was rapid economic growth throughout Ireland, rural areas responded rapidly with significant increases in the numbers employed and in workforce participation and, in turn, in local populations.  The region is ready to respond and targeted policies to stimulate employment and entrepreneurship will help to achieve targets.

The urban hierarchy

Specific details of the role to be played by different areas in the Region’s settlement hierarchy and the investments needed for these areas to fulfil their roles must be included in the Strategy.

In order to ensure that Galway city, the strategically located regional centres of Sligo and Letterkenny, other towns and rural areas all fulfil their regional development potential, with service and infrastructure levels appropriate to each type of area, investment at the appropriate scale needs to happen in all these places.  Too often a strategy is made which is supposed to be for all people and areas, but the focus becomes that of cities and other areas are left without appropriate investment.

In the Northern and Western Region there are only 5 towns (and Galway city, as well as part of Athlone) which have a population of more than 10,000, yet it is a relatively large region in the Irish context.  Therefore the Strategy should focus on the function of towns and the role they pay in their hinterland, rather than being too concerned with population size as a criterion for investment.

The nature and role of the smaller towns including county towns must be considered in more detail in the RSES and in County Development Plans.  It is important to be aware, in the context of the Strategy that these towns, as well as being important drivers of their local economy, are also essential to those living in other even smaller less serviced towns, in villages or in the wider countryside.

Although smaller towns can face significant challenges they also have key assets such as cultural heritage, historic buildings, local businesses and high levels of social capital.  These all provide opportunities for diversification and adaptation of the town and its social network to embrace future opportunities, whether it is improved tourism product, attracting people to live there, or developing knowledge and sectoral clusters such as creative industries.  Many towns have strong indigenous industries which may be exporting and a substantial number have some small scale foreign direct investment.  There are other enterprises and employers too, and important local services sectors and small scale manufacturing serving a local market.  These are very significant parts of the local economy and important local employers.  All of these can be leveraged to support the development of local communities.

Brexit

Brexit is a key strategic issue for the Northern and Western Region.  Cross-border linkages including cross-border commuting, access to services, retail and trade are areas which will undergo massive changes in the context of Brexit.  Planning for how to mitigate the impact of Brexit on border communities and the economy of the Border region in particular must be a core priority of the RSES.

Conclusions

Development of a strong regional spatial and economic strategy for the Northern and Western region will require coordination with central government, local authorities, enterprise agencies, and alignment with the Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development as they are developed over time.   The involvement of education providers, employers and people in the region will all be needed to ensure the targets are achieved.  The Strategy should be appropriately resourced (with money, expertise and time, as well as involvement of key stakeholders).  It would be better to have a more focused, limited strategy that can be implemented than a vision which is beyond the possibility of effective implementation.

Of course, the Issues Paper is just the first stage in the process of developing a Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western region.  There are many steps to be gone through, and further consultation, before the Northern and Western Regional Assembly publish a final Strategy, hopefully before the end of the year.

Detailed answers to the questions in the Issues Paper and consideration of specific needs are in the full WDC submission and an overview of key points in the summary.

 

One Region One Vision Conference Video Highlights

For 2018 the Western Region will be recognised as European Entrepreneurial Region. Recognising the success of our indigenous and small enterprises. Our commitment to innovation will see us become one of the most resilient places in Europe.

The One Region One Vision Conference took place in Galway on November 28th.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) was delighted to collaborate on this conference with the North Western Regional Assembly.

According to the CEO of the WDC , Ian Brannigan, “The Western region is entering a period of real growth and as such the bringing together of key regional stakeholders and businesses is essential to optimise this opportunity. The One region One vision provides a forum for change for the region “.

One Region One Vision celebrated achievement, whilst also promoting investment in our competitiveness through Structural Funds and launching our Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. The Conference was concluded by the Chairperson of the WDC Dr Deirdre Garvey.

So get your 2018 moving by watching the One Region One Vision inspirational speakers including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Harry Hughes of PortWest, Mary Rodgers (Portershed), Adrian Weckler (INM) and many more.

 

What are the levers for effective regional development?

‘What are the levers for effective regional development?’  was one of the most interesting questions posed recently by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government in its recent ‘Issues and Choices’ consultation paper for the National Planning Framework.

In our WDC Submission to the consultation, we drew on previous WDC analysis including the WDC Policy Briefings ‘Why care about regions? A new approach to regional policy’, ‘Education, Enterprise & Employment – How Can Better Integration Of The 3Es Drive Growth In The Western Region?’ and ‘e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence’ to answer this question.

In our submission we argue that Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for effective regional development.   The central aim of regional policy, the National Planning Framework and the upcoming Regional Economic & Spatial Strategies should be to provide the conditions for regions to grow and realise their full potential.  Developing infrastructure, the 3Es and innovation is the way to do this.  When these three areas complement and support each other, they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated regional policy approach.

Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure has always played a prominent role in regional policy.  The expectation that improvements in physical infrastructure will generate productivity gains for local businesses and increase the attractiveness of an area for investment and for tourism has been a recurring theme.  Less developed regions need to have a similar quality of infrastructures for their residents and businesses as is available in more successful regions. Infrastructural connectivity has a critical influence on choice of location for both indigenous and foreign investors.  The Western Region, and particularly the North West, is disadvantaged in terms of several forms of infrastructure.  For example Sligo was the only NSS Gateway which was not connected to Dublin with a motorway under the Major Inter-Urban motorway investments between 2006 and 2010 and was the only NSS Gateway or Hub to have a 0 improvement in its ‘accessibility to employment’ score as a result of this period of intensive investment, according to research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

In its submission to the NPF, the WDC makes a range of specific recommendations in relation to infrastructural investments needed to facilitate development in the Western Region.  The proposed investments include transport (national roads, regional and local roads, public transport (rail and bus), air and ports), communications (broadband and mobile coverage) and energy (electricity and natural gas).  These infrastructure investments are also highlighted in the WDC’s submission to the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan.

While infrastructure is critical, OECD[1]  work emphasises that transport and other infrastructure developments are not enough by themselves; to have an impact on regional development they need to be associated with, and complemented by, human capital and innovation developments.

The ‘3Es’: Enterprise, Employment and Education

Regions are successful because enterprises in these regions are successful.  When enterprises grow, employment grows and this depends on skilled and educated people.  Policy to support the ‘3Es’ of enterprise, employment and education must work together at both national and regional level to create dynamic regions.[2]

One of the most important issues that needs to be recognised and addressed by the NPF is that narrow definitions of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location is extremely limited and does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the dramatically changing patterns likely to emerge up to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are dramatically redefining the conception of work, enterprise, and their physical location.

A study conducted for Vodafone in 2016 found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work and one third have remote access to their company network. An estimated 150,000 rural workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.  This trend is likely to continue.

If the NPF mainly equates the term ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force, and will not help to achieve effective regional development. The NPF must recognise and support existing and new sole traders, micro-businesses and freelancers working in sectors where lagging regions have comparative advantage or which are not location dependent.

Quality of life is a key determinant in the location decision of many people and current trends in the world of work and technology will increasingly help people to work from the same location where they want to live.

Enterprise

Enterprises create most jobs.  The NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy.  It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth.

Many of the references to enterprises in the NPF Issues and Choices paper focus on high value, high skill exporting enterprises, which are central to export-led growth and tend to cluster in cities and larger urban centres.  However such enterprises cannot provide a full solution for regional development or jobs growth.  While they play a significant role, and have considerable multiplier impacts in other sectors, direct employment in such enterprises only accounts for one in five jobs nationally (2016 there were a total of 400,985 jobs in IDA and Enterprise Ireland supported companies nationally (DJEI) which was 19.5% of total employment (QNHS, Q4 2016)).

Enterprises in employment-intensive, lower-skill sectors are central to maintaining and growing employment both nationally and regionally.  This is termed a ‘whole of enterprise’ approach acknowledging that enterprises across all sectors have the potential to innovate and increase productivity but vary in how they contribute to growth and employment.  If the NPF focuses too narrowly on high skill, high growth enterprises and/or Foreign Direct Investment it will not lead to effective regional development.  Recognising the role and needs of entrepreneurs in local and personal services is important for sustaining as well as creating jobs, in particular in smaller centres and rural areas.  93.1% of registered enterprises in the Western Region are micro-enterprises, employing fewer than 10 people, and in general the region is characterised by smaller enterprise size (CSO, Business Demography 2014).

While Ireland has emerged from recession, enterprise numbers are not back to pre-recession levels and even more so in the Western Region and particularly more rural counties.  Between 2008 and 2014 (latest data available) the Western Region lost 8.6% of its enterprises, compared with a loss of 2.4% nationally. Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional Services and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors. Indeed fewer than 5% of the Western Region’s enterprises are in the Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors combined.  The region’s enterprise base is currently quite concentrated and diversification of the enterprise base is a key objective.

Employment

As stated in the NPF, a skilled workforce will attract high value enterprises to a region, but a skilled workforce are less likely to locate in a region unless the job opportunities already exist.  In reality this relationship is not so straightforward.  Job opportunities are a critical, but not the only factor in people’s decisions on where to live, many other personal and social factors influence this decision.  In Ireland many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere in some cases e-Working for a number of days a week. Equally, areas with large pools of skilled labour e.g. counties in the wider Dublin commuter belt, have not necessarily been able to attract employers to locate there instead.  40% of workers living in the Mid-East region work in a different region.

In general, lagging regions have substantial reserves of unmobilised labour, indicated by higher unemployment rates and lower participation rates.  During the Celtic Tiger this pattern was largely reversed in the Western Region with rising participation rates, falling unemployment and high levels of inward migration as many people returned to the region on response to economic growth opportunities. The WDC’s LookWest.ie campaign effectively illustrated many case studies of individuals and enterprises who (re)located to the region at that time.  Labour markets in lagging regions have the potential to respond very positively to improved economic circumstances and stimulus.

The recession however led to high out-migration, which is particularly detrimental to lagging regions, as the propensity to migrate is higher among the more skilled, depriving the region of their skills and leaving the less skilled more dependent on local employment opportunities.  The creation of job or entrepreneurial opportunities for graduates in lagging regions will help retain and attract a highly skilled labour force and, in turn, stimulate further growth and employment.

A key characteristic of the Western Region is that 1 in 5 people who are at work in the Western Region is self-employed (75,000 people were self-employed in the Western Region, QNHS special run, Q1 2016). While farming influences this to some extent, self-employment is higher in the region across most sectors and is particularly important in the most rural counties.

Between 2012 and 2016 the number of self-employed in the Western Region grew by 31.3% but the number of employees only increased 0.6%.  Practically all recent jobs growth in the region has been driven by self-employment. In more rural areas and smaller towns, people who wish to continue to live in these areas have created their own job.  The NPF must both recognise and support this trend.  The Local Enterprise Offices, local development companies and local authorities are most active in supporting this type of business. It would be important to continue and expand initiatives to support them such as:

  • Roll-out of fibre broadband.
  • Provision of serviced, shared workspace including through Community Enterprise Centres, at a reasonable cost.
  • Mentoring and provision of grants for start-up and established businesses.
  • Network facilitation to allow self-employed, particularly in more rural areas who may be quite isolated, to connect with others in other own or other sectors.
  • Training and upskilling for owner/managers and self-employed across all sectors including personal services (hairdressing, childminding), building trades, retail and hospitality.

What is most interesting in recent trends is that since 2012 there has been quite strong growth in the numbers self-employed who are employing other people (from 14,200 up to 19,000) showing the potential for the self-employed to be job creators.

Education

Further and higher education has an important role to play in regional development.  Educational institutions build a region’s human capital assets, attract and retain talent.  Further education and training have a particular role in up-skilling those with lower education levels, who face higher unemployment rates and are at greater risk of long term unemployment.  Lagging regions generally have a greater share of their labour force with lower levels of education.  In 2011 54.7% of adults in the Western Region had only secondary level education or lower, compared with 51.9% nationally.

Higher education brings knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, cultural and community development and innovation to regions.  It can also stimulate entrepreneurship. Within the Western Region, NUI Galway is a key regional asset and economic driver. It greatly contributes to the attractiveness and economic development of Galway city and its wider hinterland.  To the North West the three Institutes of Technology of Letterkenny, Sligo and Galway-Mayo, are collaborating on the Connacht/Ulster Alliance, an initiative that has the potential to expand the contribution of higher education to regional development in this area.

The broader role of further and higher education, touching on innovation, enterprise and employment, needs to be a key focus of regional policy.  Where this works effectively it becomes part of a virtuous cycle producing graduates and skilled workers, and enabling them to find employment in developing enterprises.

Innovation

To remain competitive, manufacturing and service firms must continually upgrade skills and capabilities, access new ideas and technologies through industry networks, tap the knowledge of their workers, suppliers and customers and search for new market opportunities. This is all innovation.

Innovation policy is often focused on scientific and technological research, but while leading OECD regions produce several hundred patents per year per million inhabitants, more than one third of OECD regions generate fewer than ten patents per year.  Lagging regions need a different kind of innovation policy, one that emphasises absorption capacity and innovation by adoption.

Policy needs to address the issues of regions that are not innovation leaders.  A substantial element of innovation policy should be focused on adoption of innovations developed elsewhere and on initiatives in areas such as human resource management or implementation of new processes.  It should stimulate innovation activity in areas where rural regions have particular strengths such as renewable energy and agri-food.

Regional policy which addresses the levers of effective regional development – Infrastructure, the 3Es and Innovation – through a co-ordinated, place-based, cross-sectoral  approach is needed if the so-called, ‘business as usual’ spatial pattern of growth is to be disrupted and all regions facilitated to realise their potential for economic growth and provide sustainable livelihoods for those who live there.

 

Pauline White

[1] OECD, 2009, How Regions Grow: Trends and Analysis; OECD, 2009, Regions Matter: Economic Recovery, Innovation and Sustainable Growth

Key Issues for the National Planning Framework – Submission from the WDC

The WDC  made its submission on Ireland 2040 – Our Plan: National Planning Framework   yesterday.  The Issues and Choices paper covered a wide range of topics from national planning challenges to sustainability, health, infrastructure and the role of cities and towns.  A key element of the paper considered the future in a “business as usual” scenario in which even greater growth takes place in the Dublin and Mid East region with consequent increased congestion and increasing costs for businesses and society, while other parts of the country continue to have under-utilised potential which is lost to Ireland.  The consultation paper therefore sought to explore the broad questions of alternative opportunities and ways to move away from the “business as usual” scenario.

The WDC submission considers these issues from the perspective of the Western Region, the needs of the Region, the opportunities its development presents for Ireland’s economy and society as a whole and the choices, investments and policy required to achieve regional growth and resilience.

This post highlights the key points made in the submission.  The complete, comprehensive submission on the National Planning Framework by the WDC can be read here (4.5MB PDF).  A shorter summary is available here (0.7MB PDF).

 

What should the NPF achieve?

  • The National Planning Framework (NPF) provides Ireland with an opportunity to more fully realise the potential of all of its regions to contribute to national growth and productivity. All areas of Ireland, the Capital and second tier cities, large, medium and small-sized towns, villages and open countryside, have roles to play both in the national economy and, most importantly, as locations for people to live.
  • While spatial planning strives for ideal settlement or employment patterns and transport infrastructure, in many aspects of life change is relatively slow; demographics may alter gradually over decades and generations and, given the housing boom in the early part of this century, many of our existing housing units will be in use in the very long term. If the NPF is to be effective it must focus on what is needed, given current and historical patterns and the necessity for a more balanced pattern of development.
  • To effectively support national growth it is important that there is not excessive urban concentration “Either over or under [urban] concentration … is very costly in terms of economic efficiency and national growth rates” (Vernon Henderson, 2000[1]). Thus it is essential that, through the NPF, other cities and other regions become the focus of investment and development.

Developing Cities

  • As the NPF is to be a high level Framework, in this submission the WDC does not go into detail by naming places or commenting on specific development projects, as these will be covered by the forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES). The exception to this, however, is in relation to the need for cities to counterbalance Dublin.  In this case we emphasise the role of Galway and the potential for Sligo to be developed as the key growth centre for the North West.
  • The North West is a large rural region and Sligo is the best located large urban centre to support development throughout much of the North West region. With effective linkages to other urban centres throughout the region and improved connectivity, along with support from regional and national stakeholders, Sligo can become a more effective regional driver, supporting a greater share of population, economic and employment growth in Sligo itself and the wider North West region.

Developing Towns

  • While the NPF is to be a high level document and the focus is largely on cities it is important not to assume that development of key cities will constitute regional development. All areas need to be the focus of definite policy, and the NPF should make this clear.
  • While cities may drive regional development, other towns, at a smaller scale, can be equally important to their region. Recognising this is not the same as accepting that all towns need the same level of connection and services.  It is more important to understand that the context of each town differs, in terms of distance and connectivity to other towns and to the cities, the size of the hinterland it serves and its physical area as well as population.  Therefore their infrastructure and service needs differ.
  • Towns play a central role in Ireland’s settlement hierarchy. While much of the emphasis in the NPF Issues and Choices paper is on cities and their role, for a large proportion of Ireland’s population small and medium-sized towns act as their key service centre for education, retail, recreation, primary health and social activities.  Even within the hinterlands of the large cities, people access many of their daily services in smaller centres.  The NPF needs to be clear on the role it sees for towns in effective regional development.

Rural Areas

  • Rural areas provide key resources essential to our economy and society. They are the location of our natural resources and also most of our environmental, biodiversity and landscape assets.  They are places of residence and employment, as well as places of amenity, recreation and refuge.
  • They are already supporting national economic growth, climate action objectives and local communities, albeit at a smaller scale than towns and cities. But a greater focus on developing rural regions would increase the contribution to our economy and society made by rural areas.
  • The key solution to maintaining rural populations is the availability of employment. It is important that the NPF is truly focused on creating opportunities for the people who live in the regions, whether in cities, towns or rural areas.

Employment and Enterprise

  • In the Issues and Choices paper a narrow definition of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location seems to be assumed. This does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the likely changes to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are redefining the conceptions of work, enterprise and their physical location.
  • If the NPF mainly equates ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address the needs of a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force.
  • Similarly the NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy and enterprise base. It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth across all regions and particularly in sectors where regions have comparative advantage.

Location Decisions

  • While job opportunities are a critical factor in people’s decision of where to live, they are by no means the only factor. Many other personal and social factors influence this decision such as closeness to family (including for childcare and elder care reasons), affordability, social and lifestyle preferences, connection to place and community.
  • Many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere or, in some cases, e-Work for a number of days a week. The NPF needs to recognise the complexity of reasons for people’s location decisions in planning for the development of settlements.

Infrastructure

  • New infrastructure can be transformative (the increase in motorway infrastructure in recent decades shows how some change happens relatively quickly). Therefore it is essential that we carefully consider where we place new investments.  To do so, capital appraisal and evaluation methods determining the costs and benefits of different investment projects need to be re-examined if we are to move from a ‘business as usual’ approach.
  • Investment in infrastructure can strongly influence the location of other infrastructure with a detrimental impact on unserved locations. The North West of the country is at a disadvantage compared to other regions with regard to motorway access. This situation will be compounded if investment in rail is focused on those routes with better road access (motorways) in order for rail to stay competitive, or if communications or electricity networks are developed along existing motorway or rail corridors.
  • The WDC believes that the regional cities can be developed more and have untapped potential, however better intra-regional linkages are needed. The weaker links between the regional centres – notably Cork to Limerick and north of Galway through to Sligo and on to Letterkenny, are likely to be a factor in the relatively slower growth of regional centres in contrast to the motorway network, most of which serves Dublin from the regions.

Climate Change

For the future, the need to move to a low carbon, fossil fuel free economy is essential and needs to be an integral and much more explicit part of the NPF.  The National Mitigation Plan for Climate Change is currently being developed, and it is essential that actions under the NPF will be in line with, and support, the actions in the Mitigation Plan.

How should the NPF be implemented?

  • While much of the role of the NPF is strategic vision and coordination of decision-making, in order for the Framework to be effective it is essential that the achievement of the vision and the actions essential to it are appropriately resourced. The Issues and Choices paper does not give a detailed outline of how the NPF implementation will be resourced, except through the anticipated alignment with the Capital Investment Programme.
  • It should be remembered that policy on services and regional development is not just implemented through capital spending but also though current spending and through policy decisions with spatial implications (such as those relating to the location of services). Therefore it is essential that other spending, investment and policy decisions are in line with the NPF rather than operating counter to it.
  • While the NPF is to provide a high level Framework for development in Ireland to 2040, it seems this Framework is to be implemented at a regional level through the RSES. The Framework and the Strategies are therefore interlinked yet the respective roles of the NPF and the RSES are not explicit and so it is not evident which areas of development will be influenced by the NPF and which by the RSES.
  • In order to ensure that the NPF is implemented effectively it is important that there is a single body with responsibility for its delivery and that there is a designated budget to help achieve its implementation.

 

It is expected that a draft National Planning Framework document will be published for consultation in May.  Following that a final version of the Framework will be prepared for discussion and consideration by Dáil Éireann.

 

As mentioned above the full WDC submission on the Issues and Choices paper Ireland 2040 Our Plan- A National Planning Framework is available here (PDF 4.5MB) and a summary of key point and responses to consultation questions is available here (PDF 0.7MB).

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] http://www.nber.org/papers/w7503

All Island Dialogue on the Implications of Brexit on Culture, Heritage, Regional SMEs & the Impact on Border & other Rural Communities

Two weeks ago (6th February 2017) Minister Heather Humphreys hosted an All Island Dialogue on the implications of Brexit on Culture, Heritage, Regional SMEs & the Impact on Border & other Rural Communities in Cavan.   This was one of the fourteen All-Island sectoral dialogues which have taken place across the country over the recent weeks.

Over 100 stakeholders attended the event and there was engaged and active discussion of the issue throughout the day.  To begin with the Minister outlined the Government’s ongoing response to Brexit.  Then a panel of experts covering the broad range of sectors under the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs each gave a short overview of the implications of Brexit for their sector.

Roundtable discussions were then held to consider the immediate impact of Brexit, longer term impacts and how they might be mitigated. The focus was on arts, heritage, small businesses and rural communities.  The discussions fed back into a broader panel discussion.

Common Themes from the discussions

A number of common themes emerged from the discussion (as well as detailed sector specific issues which are not covered in this post). A summary of the more general points raised by stakeholders, applicable to all sectors considered on the day, is provided below.

  • Uncertainty over the form and impact of Brexit was key to all of the discussion. This was regarded as a particular problem as we are just emerging from recession. Uncertainty increases risks for businesses, communities, cultural organisations and people as they make decisions.  Plans are therefore being delayed until a clearer picture emerges.
  • This slowdown in individual and business decision making is affecting economic and social activities on both sides of the border, even before the full consequences of Brexit are known.
  • There is very significant variation in the levels of knowledge of the possible implications of Brexit among businesses, communities and people. Some are well informed about possible difficulties or opportunities, others have very poor understanding and will therefore face more difficulty in making plans and developing responses to Brexit.
  • Currency fluctuations and the loss of value of sterling have had the most immediate impact which has led to other direct impacts on tourism and retail businesses.
  • Maintenance of the Common Travel Area and free movement of people was important to all involved in the discussion. Organisations staff and experts in various sectors move across borders regularly and any restrictions would negatively affect the functioning of these organisations and businesses.
  • Ensuring the continued implementation of the Good Friday Agreement with associated institutions and commitments was regarded as essential.
  • In future, changes to the way cross border services are provided in areas such as health and education will affect people living in border communities.
  • Currently the UK and Ireland are in a common regulatory regime but this will change. Across all sectors there were concerns about the implications of divergence in regulation and implementation of different regulatory approaches.  This is an issue in a variety of areas including, for example, procurement and data protection.
  • The form of future taxation agreements, VAT rules and rates could be very significant and have important implications for businesses and arts and cultural enterprises.
  • There will be a significant change to the funding landscape in the border region and beyond. It is unclear what will happen with the EU Peace programme, Interreg and other funding.  It was agreed that the border counties will be most affected by Brexit, and of these counties some will be more severely affected (Donegal was mentioned as the example of this).  There are over 300 border crossings and it is not clear whether they will all remain open in the future.
  • There has been a significant increase in cross border activity since the Good Friday Agreement and there is concern that this will be diminished. This has business implications but also intangible effects on the mind-set of those living close to the border.
  • A better understanding of the current trade and activities that take place across borders (between ROI and NI and between ROI and GB) is needed. This includes trade of goods and services, but we also have weak understanding of the reasons people are travelling across the border for work, trade or social reasons.
  • Understanding of the cross border infrastructures which have been developing in recent decades is important. The implications of change for roads, energy infrastructure and broadband need to be considered. Changes in the way these are planned and managed will affect both Ireland as a whole and border communities in particular.
  • There should be a focus on the development of new markets outside the UK and support both businesses and cultural organisations in doing this.
  • There was a view that many of the benefits of Brexit will be felt in larger urban centres and that border and rural regions will be most negatively affected because of their proximity to the border, the nature of their enterprises and their smaller population base. There is concern that here could be further rural de-population if the opportunities that Brexit may bring are confined to the Dublin area.  This needs to be addressed in a coherent manner.
  • It was highlighted that if we want a sustainable, viable and vibrant Border region, we need to plan to achieve this
  • There was a suggestion that the concentration on Brexit will take the focus off other important issues already affecting the Border region, such as access to services, infrastructure and access to employment.
  • Finally, among many of the participants, in all areas, there was a positive, ‘can do’ attitude. It was felt that we have had problems and difficulties before and have dealt with them.  There was concern that there might be an overly negative portrayal of the implications of Brexit, and that this in turn was affecting the confidence of enterprise, communities and people and in turn affecting their decision making.

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders during the discussion

  • Clear information needs to be made available about the possible implications for Brexit for communities, cultural organisations and businesses, addressing their specific issues.
  • It is important that there is more analysis and understanding of the current situation in regard to cross border trade, cross border service provision, and the on-going community engagement across borders. This information needs to be used as a basis for considering Brexit implications and appropriate response.  With more detailed information we can have better policy responses.
  • Analysis should not just address issues of business or trade but also the hard to measure issues of social integration, identity and sense of place along the border.
  • It will be important that the implications of differing regulatory standards are well understood and that these are considered both in Brexit negotiations and in developing responses to this regulatory issue in future.
  • We should use expertise from other member states which have borders with non EU countries to get a better understanding of the potential issues and to understand their models and means of ensuring that borders and relationships between EU and Non EU countries are smooth and seamless as possible.
  • The potential for substitution of imports from the UK needs to be explored as it may provide opportunities across a range of sectors.
  • The government needs to continue to consult stakeholders as the impacts of Brexit become clearer so that responses and actions can be developed.
  • We should examine problems individually and develop responses to each. There cannot be one single policy response, each issue will need to be addressed.  Brexit  is complex and responses should be tailored to the individual issue.
  • Both ROI and NI need to work closely together to understand the possible implications for Brexit for both jurisdictions and to work to achieve the best possible agreement. In this it is important that there is a close working relationship and significant engagement with the NI Executive so that all island solutions can be implemented where appropriate
  • Future government policy, including the National Planning Framework, needs to take into account the potential implications of Brexit and the changing nature of the border and ensure that there is a plan for a positive, sustainable future for the border region.
  • Special supports for the border region should be considered, in terms of structural funds as well as enterprise and community support and funding.
  • A specific fund for EU regions with sharing a border with non EU countries should be developed to mitigate the difficulties faced by these regions.

 

The focus in this dialogue on rural communities and on the Border region was significant, as these are likely to be the most immediately and directly affected by Brexit.  Uncertainty was a key theme of the discussion, and it is to be hoped that once Article 50 has been declared by the UK government and negotiations begin, that the situation may become clearer. You can sign up for on-going updates on Brexit here.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

How is the Western Region doing?

On 31 January, the WDC was invited to give a presentation to officials of the Department of Social Protection working across the Western Region. The objective was to give an overview of the WDC’s analysis of data across a range of socio-economic issues.

Analysing regional data provides information on the areas for which we are responsible and highlights the multi-dimensional nature of the concept of regional development.  A regional perspective is necessary since changes and inequalities not only occur among individuals but also the places where they live

This (very) comprehensive presentation analyses the following indicators:

  1. Population: Preliminary Census 2016 Results
  2. Labour Market: QNHS Q1 2016, special run
  3. Income: County Incomes & Regional GDP, 2013-2014
  4. Enterprise: Business Demography, 2014

These are some of the key points emerging from the analysis.

Population

  • Population of Western Region grew +0.9% 2011-2016 compared with +3.7% growth nationally.
  • Three counties in the Western Region showed population decline 2011-2016 –(Donegal -1.5%, Mayo -0.2% and Sligo -0.1%) – only counties in Ireland to do so. In addition Leitrim and Roscommon had the lowest growth.  Galway city had 5th highest population growth in Ireland.
  • Every county in Ireland had a positive natural increase (more births than deaths) during 2011-2016. Donegal, Sligo and Mayo however had enough negative net migration to lead to population decline.
  • All western counties, and all but six areas nationally, had negative net migration between 2011 and 2016. Donegal and Sligo had the two highest rates of negative net migration.
  • Male out-migration considerably higher than female leading to a +1.5% increase in the female population of the Western Region and only +2% growth in the male population.
Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Figure 1: Percentage change in population by administrative area, 2011-2016. CSO (2016), Preliminary Results Census 2016

Labour Market

  • The Western Region’s labour force declined marginally (-1.2%) between 2007 and 2016. Within this the male labour force fell by -6.1% while the female rose by +5.7%.
  • The Western Region has a lower share of its labour force aged under 35 years and a higher share aged over 44 Its labour force participation rate is lower for both men and women, and across all age groups (except 65+).
  • Total employment in the region fell by -5.8% 2007-2016 compared with a -6.5% decline in the rest of the state (all counties outside Western Region)
  • There has been exceptionally strong growth in self-employment in the Western Region since 2012, increasing by +31.1% in the region compared with +7.2% in the rest of the state.
  • Growth of self-employment tied to sectoral pattern of growth with strongest jobs growth since 2012 in Agriculture, Construction, Accommodation & Food Service and Wholesale & Retail, all with high self-emp
  • Since 2012 the Western Region has had jobs decline in 7 out of 14 sectors, in the rest of the state there was only decline in 1 out of 14. Jobs recovery in the Western Region is not as diversified across the economy as elsewhere and more concentrated in domestic sectors
  • Unemployment numbers declining steadily in region, but share of long-term unemployment growing. Western Region has higher unemployment rate in all age groups (except 65+ & 25-34) and particularly among youth.
Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Figure 2: % change in employment by sector in Western Region and Rest of State, 2012-2016. CSO, Quarterly National Household Survey, Q1 2012-2016, special run

Income

  • Disposable income per person in the Western Region was €17,260 in 2013 (92.3% of State). Provisional 2014 figures show some growth (€17,768) but still well below the 2008 peak (€21,167).
  • Longer term, the gap is narrowing, the Western Region had disposable income of 84.3% of State in 1995, 92.3% of State in 2013.
  • Within the Western Region, Roscommon had a significantly lower income relative to the State in 2014 (87.2%) compared with 2005 (95.8%). Clare has also fallen relative to the State starting at 95.5% in 2005 and dropping to 93.3% in 2014. Sligo, Galway, Mayo and Donegal have all improved their position relative to the State since 2005, albeit with some variation. Galway and Sligo had greatest improvements.
Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 3: Index of disposable income per person in western counties, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Gross Value Added

  • Dublin region is the only region where the preliminary 2014 GVA per person figure is higher than the peak GVA per person in 2007. None of the other regions have recovered to the 2007 level, though the difference in the West region is slight.
  • Dublin and Mid-East and South West, only regions with a greater share of national GVA than share of persons at work.
  • In 2005 there were 60.6 index points between the lowest GVA per person in a region (Midland, 65.4) and the highest (Dublin and the Mid-East, 126.0).  In 2014 the difference between Midland (59.2) and Dublin and the Mid-East, (130.6) was 71.4 index points (71.3 in 2013).
Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Figure 4: Index of GVA per person by region, 2005-2014 (Index State=100). CSO, County Incomes and Regional GDP 2013, provisional 2014

Enterprise

  • The share of enterprises nationally that are based in the Western Region is declining and was 17.1% of the total in 2014.
  • Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional activities and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors in the region. Less than 5% of the region’s enterprises are in Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications combined.
  • There has been a far greater decline in enterprise numbers in the Western Region than the rest of the state since 2008 and the region had a weaker performance – greater decline or lower growth – in every sector (ex. real estate).
  • The enterprise base differs across more urban and rural counties. Highly rural counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal have 34-36% of enterprises in Industry and Construction but in more urban counties of Clare and Sligo it is around 30%.  A higher share of enterprises in Galway and Sligo are active in knowledge services sectors, though even Galway is below national average. Local services play a larger role in more rural counties.
  • Western counties had among the greatest losses of enterprises since 2008. Donegal lost more than 1 in 3 of its Construction firms; Wholesale & Retail declined most strongly in Donegal and Clare; Accommodation & Food Service declined across most counties.
  • Knowledge services performed best, though from a low base.
Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

Figure 5: % change in number of active enterprises by sector in Western Region & Rest of State, 2008-2014. CSO, Business Demography, 2014

The full presentation can be downloaded here  (PDF, 2MB)

 

Pauline White & Helen McHenry

Realising our Rural Potential- Action Plan for Rural Development

The Action Plan for Rural Development –Realising our Rural Potential –developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DAHRRGA) was launched yesterday (23.01.17) in Ballymahon, Co. Longford as was mentioned in our last post.

action-plan-cover

The Action Plan contains 274 actions which are to be completed over the next three years and uses the Action Plan for Jobs as a model with responsibility for the delivery of each action is assigned to a government department  or other body.  Each action has a clear timeline.

action-plan-targets

There is an emphasis on the positive assets of rural Ireland and on ‘changing the narrative towards the contribution made to our economy and society by rural areas, rather than a focus on rural decline’.

It is recognised that rural Ireland is not a homogenous place and that different areas face different challenges.  There is no clear definition of rural Ireland but it seems to use that defined in the CEDRA (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas )  “all areas located beyond the administrative boundaries of the five largest cities”.

Building on Policy

The Action Plan builds on the CEDRA report and the Charter for Rural Ireland and contains a number of actions which build on these.  For example, a review of the implementation of the CEDRA report is one action, while the REDZ are also part of the Action Plan.

action-cedraRural Proofing, which was a commitment in the Rural Chart published last year, is included here too

action-rural-proofingThe Action Plan outlines the population and other changes which have been taking place in rural Ireland and briefly examines the challenges and opportunities faced by rural areas.  One of the key challenges noted is BREXIT and the Western Development Commission is committed to an action (along with DAHRRGA) to examine the impact of BREXIT on rural areas and on border areas in particular.

action-wdc-brexit

Action Plan Themes

As mentioned in our previous post there are five thematic pillars, each of which has a series of objectives and actions.   Each of the five are further broken down into more specific themes as follows:

Pillar 1: Supporting Sustainable Communities

  • Making Rural Ireland a better place to live (Actions 1-19)
  • Enhancing Local Services (Actions 20-36)
  • Empowering Local Communities (Actions 37-46)
  • Building Better Communities (Actions 47-67)

 

Pillar 2: Supporting Enterprise and Employment

  • Growing and Attracting Enterprise (Actions 68-104)
  • Supporting Sectoral Growth (this covers the Agri-food Sector, Renewable energy and International Financial Services -Actions 105-120)
  • Skills and Innovation (Actions 121-134)
  • Supporting Rural Job Seekers and Protecting Incomes (Actions 135-151)

 

Pillar 3: Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential

  • Support targeted Rural Tourism Initiatives (Actions 152-166)
  • Develop and Promote Activity Tourism (Actions 167-185)
  • Develop and Support our Natural and Built Heritage (Actions 186-202)

 

Pillar 4: Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities

  • Increase access to the arts in rural communities (Actions 203-209)
  • Enhance Culture and Creativity in Rural Ireland (Actions 210-222)
  • Promote the Irish language as a key resource (Actions 223-231)

 

Pillar 5: Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity

  • Broadband and Mobile Phone Access (Actions 232-247)
  • Rural Transport (Actions 248-263)
  • Flood Relief Measures (Actions 264-276)

 

Key Actions

While there are more than 270 actions the key actions for the Plan (as highlighted by DAHRRGA )are listed here:

  • Supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020 by assisting indigenous businesses, investing €50m for collaborative approaches to job creation in the regions, and increasing Foreign Direct Investment in regional areas by up to 40%.
  • Implementing a range of initiatives to rejuvenate over 600 rural and regional towns.
  • Introducing a new pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in town and village centres.
  • Assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development, tackle social exclusion and provide services to people living in remote areas.
  • Increasing the number of visitors to rural Ireland by 12% in the next three years through targeted tourism initiatives, including increased promotion of Activity Tourism.
  • Accelerating the preparation for the rollout of high-speed broadband and ensuring that all homes and businesses in rural Ireland are connected to broadband as early as possible.
  • Increasing capital funding for flood risk schemes up to €80m per annum by 2019 and increasing to €100m per annum by 2021
  • Improving job opportunities for young people in rural areas by increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
  • Developing an Atlantic Economic Corridor to drive jobs and investment along the Western seaboard and contribute to more balanced regional development.
  • Investing over €50 million in sports, recreation and cultural facilities throughout the country, including in rural areas.
  • Protecting vital services in rural Ireland by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services and protecting rural schools.
  • Introducing a range of measures to boost job creation in the Gaeltacht, including the creation of 1,500 new jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies by 2020 and the development of Innovation Hubs in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltacht regions to support entrepreneurship.
  • Combating rural isolation by improving connectivity and enhancing supports for older people, including significant investment in the Senior Alert scheme.
  • Building safer communities by providing a more visible, effective and responsive police service in rural areas through the recruitment of 3,200 new Garda members over the next four years to reach a strength of 15,000 members, and by introducing a new community CCTV Grant Aid Scheme.
  • Examining the scope for increased investment in regional roads in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021
  • Assessing and improving rural transport routes and developing new routes where necessary
  • Delivering 18 new primary care centres in rural Ireland by end of 2018
  • Investing €435m in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals in rural Ireland, up to 2021, creating up to 5,000 jobs during the construction phase
  • Improving societal cohesion and wellbeing in rural communities by supporting cultural and artistic provision and participation.

 

Co-ordination and monitoring

One of the important outcomes of the Action Plan should be a more integrated approach to rural issues across government departments and agencies.

The implementation of the Action Plan will be overseen by a Monitoring Committee which will include representatives of relevant government departments and key rural stakeholder interests.  The Committee will be supported by DAHRRGA.

Reports will be submitted every six months to a cabinet committee on Regional and Rural Affairs which is chaired by the Taoiseach and the progress reports on the delivery of the actions will be published.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphries, TD  has appointed Pat Spillane as an Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Development who will assist the Monitoring Committee in identifying the impacts of the Plan on Rural Ireland and encourage businesses, communities, sporting organisations and others to engage with the Plan.  Mr Spillane previously acted as Chair of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA).  He will also be a member of the Monitoring Committee which will oversee the implementation on the Action Plan.

While the majority of the actions are already part of government policy including them in the Action Plan means that their progress will be regularly monitored by Monitoring Committee which should ensure continued focus.

You can read the full Action Plan here.

There is a short video also available.

 

 

Helen McHenry

2017 – A very important year for Broadband and the National Broadband Plan

2017 – Contract Signing and Build Commencement

2017 is the year when contracts are to be awarded to one or two telecommunications companies to rollout a high speed broadband network as part of the much awaited National Broadband Plan.

For those companies and citizens across regional and rural Ireland trying to operate with very basic broadband services, this is a really important milestone. Not only will it signal the start of an actual physical build out of the network, it will also provide some reassurance that Government policy is actually starting to deliver.

It had been expected that contracts would be signed in June 2017, though late last year the bidders (there are three), indicated they may need more time to prepare their bids. See Dáil Q&A.

Notwithstanding the scale of the project and process, the bidders have had years to prepare for this bid and it is imperative that contracts are awarded and the build commences. Rural businesses have had to endure poor services for too long and in a global marketplace where online connectivity is a basic pre-requisite, rural businesses have to work harder than their urban counterparts to stay in business. Recent research highlights the significance of broadband infrastructure compared to other infrastructure in supporting local enterprises and their development.

Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce

In the meantime, just before Christmas 2016, the Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce was published. This report seeks to address the gaps in the current delivery of telecoms infrastructure and is focused more on addressing improvements in the short term, in addition and separate to the National Broadband Plan which is over a longer time frame.

This is a very welcome initiative, not least because there is a lot of dissatisfaction with mobile phone coverage, especially in rural areas. Also, anything that can ‘fill gaps’ in existing broadband provision should be progressed, as even when contracts for the NBP are signed, some will be waiting years for the planned new broadband infrastructure.

There are 40 actions aimed at assisting the rollout of mobile services and high speed broadband, to homes and businesses. These include measures to streamline planning procedures for telecoms infrastructure, actions to build out new ducting along the M7/M8, and measures to help consumers directly.

Key actions include:

  • The Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment will work with telecoms operators and ComReg (Commission for Communication Regulation) to identify mobile blackspots and come up with measures to address these blackspots.
  • All local authorities are to assign a Broadband officer who will act as a single point of contact for engagement with telecommunications operators building out infrastructure.
  • ComReg will develop and publish a new network coverage map, and develop a testing regime to measure the performance of mobile phone handsets which will help people to make informed choices on products and services they purchase.
  • There will be a new licensing regime to allow people to install high quality signal repeaters on their buildings – homes and businesses, which will boost their connectivity.
  • Work on building 95km of duct along the M7 / M8 Motorway, which will complete the ducting on the Cork-Dublin route is being undertaken by Transport infrastructure Ireland.
  • From Q1, 2017, all Local Authorities will apply waivers in respect of development contributions for telecoms infrastructure developments.
  • Other key actions include the review and updating of the relevant statutory planning guidelines to ensure consistency by local authorities, and the introduction of an online system to streamline the planning application process.

Spectrum Developments

  • ComReg expects to allocate spectrum in the 3.6GHz band in 2017. This will release an additional 86% of spectrum capacity, allowing fixed wireless and mobile operators to deliver services.
  • It is expected that by 2020 the 700MHz spectrum band is to be made available for use by the telecoms sector which will be particularly important in rural areas.

Finally, there is to be an Implementation Group established which is to drive and monitor the implementation of these actions.

 

For rural users, in the Western Region and across the country, lets hope 2017 will see delivery of these actions, that NBP contracts are awarded and the building of the National Broadband Plan Network commences.

Deirdre Frost

WDC Insights Christmas Quiz Time Again!

We are sure you have been reading our WDC Insights blog and keeping an eye on our publications throughout 2016.  Take our Christmas Quiz (10 questions) and see just how well you can score on regional development and Western Region issues.

The answers are at the end with links to more information and the relevant posts.

Good Luck!

 

blog christmas tree1      County Incomes

County incomes and regional GDP statistics are released by the CSO annually.  Disposable indicates the level of material wealth of households residing in different regions and is a better indicator of material well-being of citizens than GDP per person.

What county had the lowest household disposable income per person in 2013 and 2014?

  1. Mayo
  2. Leitrim
  3. Donegal

blog christmas tree2       Regional and Local Roads

Regional and local roads are the core of regional and rural transport. They are crucial to economic activity, and the importance of commuting to work across counties and to towns and cities is well recognised yet the regional and local roads grant allocation for 2016 was €298m, less than half that for 2009.

How many kilometres of regional and local roads are there in Ireland?

  1. 91,000kms
  2. 127,000kms
  3. 62,000kms

blog christmas tree3      Employment and Jobs

The jobs growth that is occurring in the Western Region in recent years has been strongly driven by self-employment.  Between 2012 and 2015 the number of self-employed in the Western Region grew by significantly, and by much more than in the rest of the state.  By how much did it grow?

  1. 12.1
  2. 11.8%
  3. 13.6%

blog christmas tree4      Vital Statistics

It is interesting to look birth and death rates by county and the significant differences among them. There were 65,909 births in the state in 2015 of which 16% (10,527) were to mothers resident in the Western Region.  The birth rate (Births per year per 1,000 population) nationally was 14.1 with the highest rate (17.4) in Fingal.

The lowest birth rate was in both counties Roscommon and Kerry.  What was it?

  1. 12.6 Births per 1,000 population
  2. 9.1 Births per 1,000 population
  3. 11.8 Births per 1,000 population

blog christmas tree5      Enterprises in the Western Region

In 2014 there were 40,797 active enterprises registered in the seven county Western Region.  This was significantly lower than the number registered in 2008.  In contrast, in the rest of the state the number in 2014 was just 1% below the 2008 figure.

How many more businesses were registered in the Western Region in 2008 than in 2014?

  1. 3,824
  2. 2,167
  3. 3,210

blog christmas tree6      Local Property Tax

The Local Property Tax (LPT) is an annual self-assessed tax charged on the market value of all residential properties in the State.  It came into effect in 2013 and is being administered by Revenue.  The total number of properties returned for payment of the LPT in the Western Region was 354,400 in 2015 with 1.86 m properties returned for the state.  In the state €427m in Local Property Tax was collected nationally in 2015.

How much was collected in the Western Region ?

  1. €62.7m
  2. €61.4m
  3. €59.2m

blog christmas tree7      Broadband

The WDC has been highlighting rural broadband needs for more than a decade. It is a particular issue for our largely rural region

What proportion of premises covered by the National Broadband Plan area are in the Western Region?

  1. 73%
  2. 19%
  3. 34%

blog christmas tree8      Regional contribution to Agricultural output

Despite the importance of agriculture for employment in the region it contributed only a small amount to GVA in the West and Border regions.  However, although only a small proportion of GVA is from Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in these regions, they both make a substantial contribution to national Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing GVA.

What percentage share of national GVA from Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing is produced by the Border Region?

  1. 14.4%
  2. 27.6%
  3. 16.2%

blog christmas tree9      Population changes in the Region

Preliminary results for Census 2016 show that the population grew in most Irish counties, but it fell in some counties of the Western Region.

In how many counties of the Western Region did it fall?

  1. 2 counties
  2. 3 counties
  3. 5 counties

blog christmas tree10      Vehicles licensed for the first time

In 2015 Roscommon had the fifth highest level of new car registrations in the country.  This is surprising for such a small county.  What is the reason?

  1. Roscommon people love to drive new cars
  2. A car hire company operating in the county is registering the cars there
  3. In this county Santa brings new cars for Christmas every year

 

blog christmas treeAnswers:

  1. County Incomes

Answer: 3) Donegal

For more on this see this post

 

  1. Regional and Local Roads

Answer: 2) 91,000kms

For more on this see the post here.

 

  1. Employment and jobs

Answer: 3) 13.6%

For more on this and other information about the jobs recovery see this post

 

  1. Vital Statistics

Answer: 3) 11.8

Read more about vital statistics in the Western Region counties here

 

  1. Enterprises in the Western Region

Answer: 1) 3,824

For more about enterprises in the Western Region and the varying trends among counties see this post

 

  1. Local Property Tax

Answer:1) €62.7m or 2) €61.4m

This time we accept either of two answers!  According to the blog posted in September it was €62.7m but figures have been revised since then and are now €61.4.  Read the blog post to find out more about the LPT or find the latest data here

 

  1. Broadband

Answer: 3) 34%

Read more about the issue of rural broadband here and here.

 

  1. Regional contribution to Agricultural output

Answer: 1) 14.4%

Read more about the regional GVA from different sectors and the contribution of regions to national output here.

 

  1. Population changes in the Western Region

Answer 2) 3 counties

The population fell in Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.  For more on the preliminary results on census 2016 for the Western Region see this post and this post and this post which focuses on housing and vacancy rates or read our WDC Insights and reports available here  https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/ .

 

  1. New Vehicle registrations

Answer: 2) A car hire company operating in the county is registering the cars there

There is a Car Hire company office operating in Roscommon which taxes all new vehicles for the Car Hire Company (i.e. all the offices in Ireland)  for the first time in the County – the figures in the previous post were based on the first taxing of the vehicle and not the registration. This company taxed 2,236 vehicles out of the 4,877  vehicles in 2015. That is nearly 45% of the new private cars licensed for the first time in the county.

For more on new car registrations and the level in Co. Roscommon see this post and this one.

 

How well did you do?

You got 9 or 10 answers correct

CONGRATULATIONS! You really know a lot about regional development, the Western Region and the Western Development Commission’s work.

 

You got between 4 and 8 answers correct

WELL DONE, a good score but some deficiencies in your knowledge. Perhaps you should read our WDC Insights posts more carefully in 2017!

 

You got between 0 and 3 answers correct

OH DEAR! Time to pay more attention to regional development and Western Region Issues. You’ll have to do some extra study over the holiday! Reread the WDC Insights blog and check out the WDC publications page and re-take the quiz in the New Year!

 

Happy Christmas!

blog christmas tree

 

 

 

 

Helen McHenry

This is the Western Region

For the year end the WDC policy analysis team has produced an infographic of the Western Region highlighting key statistics and important elements that contribute to the economy and life of the region.

We have included population and population changes for our seven counties (on a handy little map reminding you of where we are) as well as key employment, unemployment and self-employment statistics.  Alongside these we have income and enterprise statistics for the region and we looked at connectivity and highlighted other regional characteristics including rail freight use and wind energy.

wdc_infographiclow_res-01

 

 

We hope you enjoy it, if you want to take a closer look, download the pdf here (1.4MB) and, in case you are wondering where it all came from, the data sources are listed on the second sheet

 

Helen McHenry