Information Society Statistics – The Regional Picture

The CSO has recently published statistics on household use of the internet, measuring various aspects of the information society. Given the significant importance of the National Broadband Plan, aimed at delivering better internet access for all, especially those in rural areas, it is useful to examine the regional dimension of the Information Society Statistics, see here for the link to the CSO publication.

Household Internet Connectivity

In 2019, 91% of households have an internet connection, an increase of two percentage points since 2018. The regions with the lowest percentage of households with internet access are the Border (84%), the Midlands (85%), the West (89%) and South East (89%).  Some regions, such as the Border, have reported a slight decline in the rate between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear why this is the case, discussions with the CSO suggest it could be due to sampling and the fact that different households are selected each year, see note 1 below.

Type of Broadband Connection

The type of broadband connection also varies by region. Fixed broadband connection is highest in the Dublin region at 92%, compared with the Border and Midland regions, at 71% and 69% respectively. Narrowband connection is most prevalent in the Midlands, see table below.

Frequency of Internet Usage

Across the State the internet is used ‘everyday or almost everyday’ by 79% of individuals. The percentage rises to 85% in the Dublin region and the lowest rates are found in the Border (68%), the South-East (73%) and the West (75%).

Examining infrequency of internet use, nationally 12% of individuals ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ and this rate rises to 19% in the Border region and 16% in the South-West and Mid-East. The CSO notes that frequency of use is related to age and principal economic status so that the younger age categories and students access the internet most frequently while those who are older and retired access it least frequently. The Border and West regions also have a higher age profile, especially in rural areas and this contributes to the higher rates among those who ‘didn’t use it in the last 3 months’ in these regions.

Types of Internet Activities

The CSO asked what type of internet activities were carried out by individuals in 2019. The

most popular activities were ’Finding information on goods and services’ and ‘email’ (sending and receiving emails), both at 84%. The Border region (73% using email) and the Mid-East (76% finding information on goods and services), reported the lowest rates in these types of internet activity.

Examining the use of the internet for financial transactions, nationally 42% of persons bought or renewed existing insurance policies online, see table below. This drops to 27% in the Border region while Dublin has the highest level – 48%, followed by the West at 46%.

e-Government

Examining the extent of e-Government use, that is engaging with public authorities and public services via the internet, in 2019, half of internet users (50%) Obtained information from websites or apps. Regionally, the Border region recorded the lowest rate in obtaining information from websites or apps – just 29% in 2019.

Nationally, 60% reported Submitting completed forms online. It is interesting to note that submitting completed application forms is more prevalent across all regions than obtaining information. The South West, Dublin and the West all had in excess of 60% of individuals submitting completed application forms online which highlights the value of e-Government in engaging with people in this way. While submitting completed forms online is very prevalent, there are some regions such as the Midlands and Border regions where rates were below 50% such as the Midlands – 46% and Border – 47%.

Across all types of contact with public authorities and services as outlined in the Table below, there is some evidence of a decline in rates between 2018 and 2019. It is not clear what is the reason for this, it is possibly due to sampling and different households are selected each year. It could also reflect an actual decline on yearly rates but measuring whether this is a trend or not will only become evident over a longer time period.

Shared Economy

Nationally in 2019 one third of internet users arranged accommodation from another private individual via dedicated website or app (such as a room, apartment, house, holiday cottage, etc.), such as Airbnb, which was an increase of five percentage points on 2018. This again varies by region, but here the West region has the highest incidence with 42% using Airbnb or similar. This is followed by Dublin 37% and the Mid-West by 36%.

The regions with the lowest rates are the South-East (24%) and the Border (26%). All regions reported an increase year on year, apart from the Midlands and the South West which remained stable.

As Table 1.5 shows, the practice of accessing transport services from another private individual online is much less prevalent. Unsurprisingly the rates in Dublin are the highest given the rate of activity there.

Internet Purchases

Considering online purchases, Clothes or sports goods were the most popular online purchase in 2019, purchased by over half (51%) of internet users. Here the regions with the greatest rates of online purchasing is the South west (56%), Mid-East (53%) and Midland region (53%). The lowest rates are in the Border region (41%).

There are clear differences between age groups in the types of goods and services bought online. The largest difference was for Clothes or sports goods, with 68% of individuals aged 16 to 29 years purchasing these, compared with just 23% of those aged 60 to 74. This age difference will also likely impact on regional variations with some regions having and older age profile such as the Border and West.

ICT Skills and Online Learning

Respondents were asked about online learning activities for educational, professional or private purposes which they undertook in the previous three months. Nationally 13% did a course online in the previous quarter and the highest rates were in the West (18%) and the lowest rates were in the Border region – 8%.

There is a greater incidence of people who Used online learning material other than a complete online course, across the State over one fifth (21%) did so in the last three months. Again, there is much regional variation with the highest rates reported in the West (29%), followed by 27% in Dublin. The lowest rates were reported in the Border and the Mid-East (13%).

Nationally, 14% Communicated with instructors or students using educational websites or portals. Here the regional variation is less pronounced.  The Border region reports the same as nationally – 14% while Dublin has the highest rate at 18%.

Home Smart Technology

In 2019, one eighth (12%) of internet users stated that they use home smart technology i.e., they use the internet to interact with household equipment or appliances that are connected to the internet (such as control of heating, control of lights and other building/apartment maintenance systems; household appliances e.g. oven, washing machine, robot vacuum cleaner; security systems e.g. locks, alarms, security cameras).

Regionally there are differences with the highest rates reported in Dublin (19%), followed by the Mid-East, Mid-West and South-West – all 11%. The regions of Midlands and West report 10% of internet users using home smart technology, while the lowest rates reported were in the South-West (9%) and the Border (5%).

Conclusions.

The information Society is very much embedded in how we conduct our lives. As the CSO data shows, the range of uses of the internet is extensive; from shopping for a wide range of goods and services to learning and accessing education services. And this release does not include information on the use of the internet to work from home on a regular or occasional basis.

The overall picture is clear, the use of the internet is pervasive and is becoming more so. The regional picture is less clear. On many of the themes, the Border region lags the national average, along with the West and South-East. On other variables such as arranging accommodation from another private individual online, the West has the highest rates.

Policy implications include the need to rollout the National Broadband Plan as soon as possible so as to ensure households without high speed broadband are not impeded in their use of the internet through a poor-quality service.

Other policy implications include the need to ensure ongoing provisions on high quality ICT skills and training such as the programme operated by the Department of Communications. It is clear that take -up is slower among the older age groups and some of this is due to a need for training.

Finally, it is clear that not everybody accesses goods and services online. Government services in particular need to continue to be delivered on an off-line method for those who are not able to or do not wish to access services online.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies- the final steps

The long process of developing a National Planning Framework under Project Ireland 2040 is nearing its end, with the publication of the three regional Spatial and Economic Strategies anticipated shortly.  Each of the three regional assemblies (Eastern and Midland, Southern, and Northern and Western (see the map below) is at a slightly different stage in the process but have either completed (EMRA) or are currently consulting on material amendments to draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (SRA and NWRA).  These will feed into the spatial planning process as depicted in the graphic below which shows the relationship between the different planning levels.

Source: Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly https://emra.ie/regional-spatial-and-economic-strategies-2/

The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly published its Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy and accompanying documents in June 2019 (see here for more information).

The Southern Regional Assembly has recently published its Proposed Material Amendments (PDF 3.5MB) and associated Environmental Reports for public consultation. The consultation period is from 12th September 2019 until 11th October 2019, (dates inclusive).  The WDC will review the material amendments relevant to the Western Region (largely as they relate to Clare).  Our previous submission is discussed here.

Finally, and of most interest to the WDC, because of its coverage of the Western Region (aside from Clare which is part of the Southern Region), the Northern and Western Regional Assembly is currently consulting on the Material Amendments (5.6MB) to the draft RSES.  The closing date for comments on these Material Amendments is 11 October.  More information about how to input to this process is here.

The three Regional assemblies cover the areas shown in the map below.

The WDC has made submissions and attended consultation meetings throughout the development of the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies  (see WDC Insights posts here, here and here).

The WDC is finalising its inputs to the consultation on the Material Amendments in the Northern and Western Region, mindful that considerable consultation has already taken place and that the proposedamendments have been included by the elected members of Regional Assembly.  Therefore, the WDC comments will be confined to specific details of the amended text.

Proposed amendments

The material amendments largely relate to the RGCSPs but there are a number of other new Regional Policy Objectives and amendments to the previous RPOs (see this document for the full detail of all the material amendments under consultation).  A small selection of the new RPOS (relating to the region as a whole) are outlined here.

There is a proposed overarching environmental regional policy objective:

The Assembly supports the integration of biodiversity considerations in a positive, proactive and precautionary way and promotes the protections of the environment and bio-diversity conservation as key principles of the strategy.

There is increased emphasis on collaboration among Local Authorities and the Regional Assemblies:

It is an objective to establish a collaborative approach between the Regional Assemblies (NWRA, SRA), the Local Authorities and other stakeholders to enable all their metropolitan areas to collaborate with each other to harness their combined potential as an alternative to development of Dublin.

A number of RPOs relating to Tourism assets have been amended (e.g. 24-26, 31) :

24.To support working with relevant landholders and recreational / tourism agencies to increase access to the Countryside and to our Coastal area’s, and to ensure maintenance and access to the existing network of trails, paths, ways etc.

25.To support the maintenance of, and enhanced access to state lands, such as National Parks, Forest Parks, Waterways together with Monuments and Historic Properties, for recreation and tourism purposes.

26.To support the preparation and implementation of Visitor Experience Development Plans (VEDPs) within the Northern & Western Region, to underpin the overarching regional tourism benefits and to promote the natural and cultural assets of the Regions.

31.To ensure provision is made for the expansion in accommodation, and facilities within key destination towns, such as Carrick on Shannon, Cavan, Roscommon Town & Athlone, together with necessary supporting infrastructural investments, including improvements in the public realm, Transport links, accommodation, the night time economy, and sustainable development of our natural & built economy

The WDC welcomes a new RPO on the Bioeconomy:

The Assembly supports the future proofing of Infrastructure Planning to allow for the potential upgrading of existing industrial sites to bio-refining plants while also supporting the use of bio-renewable energy for production of bio-based products.

In relation to Ports the proposed RPO now includes Killybegs:

The Assembly supports the designation of Galway and Killybegs as Tier 1 Ports, subject to environmental and visual considerations as well as transport and economic viability requirements.

New RPOs are included on Climate Action and for the designation of National Parks:

The Assembly will support the preparation of local climate strategies by CAROs and Local Authorities to address vulnerability to climate risks and prioritise actions in accordance with the principles within the National Adaptation Framework and the National Mitigation Plan.

The Assembly supports the advancement of the zone of North Sligo/North Leitrim (Ben Bulben and its hinterlands) and the area surrounding Lough Arrow/Lough Key as potential National Parks/National Recreation Areas. It also supports collaboration in this regard with stakeholders including NPWS, Local Authorities, Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

In relation to roads, the following amendment is proposed (listing more roads than the original draft RSES):

The delivery of the following projects shall be pursued, in consultation with and subject to the agreement of TII, through pre-appraisal, early planning and to construction as priority projects to be delivered to an appropriate level of service in the medium term.

    • N15 Sligo to BundoranN16 Sligo to Blacklion
    • N13 Manorcunningham to Bridgend/Derry
    • N59 enhancement
    • N61 Athlone to Boyle improvement
    • N63 Galway to Longford improvement
    • N56 lnver to Killybegs
    • N15 Stranorlar to Lifford
    • N13 Stranorlar to Letterkenny
    • N3 North of Kells to Enniskillen, via Cavan and the A509 in Fermanagh;
    • N54 (NS) Cavan to Monaghan Town;
    • N55 (NS) Cavan to Athlone;
    • N26 and N58 (NS) linking Ballina to N5.

 

Finally, a RSES Oversight Committee is proposed, which will be established to ensure oversight of the implementation, monitoring and reporting of progress in implementation of the RSES, as well as identifying opportunities to drive Regional Development, and suggest sources of funding, fostering partnerships / new collaborations.

This is only a small selection of the proposed amendments. It is worth taking the time to consider all of the proposed amendments and provide feedback to the Northern and Western Regional Assembly by 11 October 2019.  The WDC will make its submission shortly and it will be available on our website.

Conclusion

The completion of all of the Regional Spatial and Economic strategies will be a very significant achievement, the culmination of years of work since they were first announced  and extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement.  Of course, this means the work of implementation becomes a priority.  The incorporation of the strategy goals and targets into Local Area Plans and City and County Development Plans is to follow, and wider implementation of the strategies to ensure that the growth and employment targets set out the in the NPF are achieved, along with ten National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs listed below) is essential:

  1. Compact Growth
  2. Enhanced Regional Accessibility
  3. Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities
  4. Sustainable Mobility
  5. A Strong Economy Supported by Enterprise, Innovation and Skills
  6. High Quality International Connectivity
  7. Enhanced Amenity and Heritage
  8. Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Society
  9. Sustainable Management of Water Waste and other Environmental Resources
  10. Access to Quality Childcare, Education and Health Services

 

Achieving these will involve co-ordinated spending and investment and alignment of policy across all sectors (eg transport, education, enterprise and initiatives such as the Atlantic Economic Corridor) as well as through the planning process.  It will require the iterative incorporation of new policies (such as the Climate Action Plan and the local Climate Adaptation Strategies (see here for example)  as well as incorporating responses to economic, social and policy responses to know and unknown factors (e.g. Brexit, changes in global economic activity and any unexpected events).

 

We look forward to a strong, driven, implementation process responsive to the changing world and to changing priorities.  With this we can be optimistic about living, working and doing business in a thriving, active and sustainable region twenty years from now.

 

Helen McHenry

WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Northern & Western Region 

Last week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document and pay particular focus to the 211 Regional Policy Objectives set out.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

A Rural Region

  • Adapting the ‘city-led development’ approach of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to a highly rural region presents a considerable challenge. The RSES for the NWRA Region needs to have flexibility to take an approach more suited to the rural nature of its settlement pattern.
  • Rural areas provide much of the urban workforce and urban demand. Rural-urban interlinkages, including travel to work patterns, need to be given greater consideration.
  • Job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas, as well as remote working, can bring closer alignment of housing and jobs. Building more houses in large urban centres is not the only route to greater alignment.

Implementation

  • Many of the Regional Policy Objectives do not include detail of how they will be implemented, who will be involved in leading or implementing them or the timeframe for implementation.
  • A mechanism is needed to achieve the required alignment of a large array of national, regional, local, sectoral, public and private organisations, policies, priorities and strategies to ensure implementation of the RSES. It needs to be clear what will happen if the priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with the RSES.

Growth Ambitions

The Draft RSES is based on a Growth Framework composed of 5 Growth Ambitions: 1) Vibrant Region; 2) Natural Region; 3) Connected Region; 4) Inclusive Region; 5) Enabling our Region.  Some of our key points on these included:

  • The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), as an agreed place-based platform for economic growth, should be designated as an Economic Zone in the RSES.
  • Adopting a ‘sector’ approach to economic and enterprise development misses out on many ‘cross-cutting’ themes e.g. digitalisation, AI, finance.
  • There is an urgent need to review national Ports and Aviation policy to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach which reinforces the dominance of Dublin Port and Airport.
  • Delivering Atlantic Corridor road projects (on the N17/15) should be prioritised to take place earlier (no commitment in current NDP to begin construction before 2027).
  • Some care is needed in focusing on ‘infrastructure corridors’ – this approach will not work in all circumstances and areas distant from such ‘corridors’ risk further disadvantage.
  • RSES should contain a stronger commitment to the extension of the natural gas grid.
  • RSES needs to focus on improving living standards for residents of the Region as a key objective in its own right, rather than simply as a way to attract companies and support business.
  • More reference is needed to the potential impact of Brexit.

The full submission is available here

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 February) the NWRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

The Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  is still open for consultation, with a deadline of 8 March 2019, and a future post will discuss the WDC’s submission to that consultation.

Pauline White

Give your view on the development of the Northern and Western Region- make a submission on the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy

Just a reminder that the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) is currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 8th February 2019.

The National Planning Framework (NPF) published last year, provides a framework for development and investment over the coming years. Under the umbrella of Project Ireland 2040, it was published with its companion, the National Development Plan (NDP), a 10 year strategy for public investment.

The NPF is a framework for the development needed to underpin population growth in Ireland of up to 1 million people (by 2040) with approximately 50% of this growth to be in the five main cities.  The Framework is underpinned by 10 National Strategic Outcomes and, central to it, is the concept of Compact Growth identifying where new growth can take place within the existing envelope of our Cities, Towns and villages.

The primary vehicle for delivering the NPF is through the implementation of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) for each of the three NUTS 2 Regions shown on the map below.  The Assembly in each of these Regions (the Northern and Western Region, the Southern Region  and the Eastern and Midlands Region) has a draft RSES currently under consultation.

The NWRA, through the RSES, aims to provide regional level strategic planning and economic policy in support of the implementation of the National Planning Framework and provide a greater level of focus around the National Policy Objectives and National Strategic Outcomes in the Region.  The challenge for the NWRA was to take the high-level framework and principles of the NPF and work out more detail at regional and local authority levels.  This NWRA RSES introduces the concept of a Growth Framework with ‘Five Growth Ambitions’ defining the priorities for the Region and how they are mutually intertwined. The five are:

  • Growth Ambition 1: Economy & Employment – Vibrant Region
  • Growth Ambition 2: Environment – Natural Heritage
  • Growth Ambition 3: Connectivity – Connected Region
  • Growth Ambition 4: Quality of Life
  • Growth Ambition 5: Infrastructure – Enabling Our Region

The draft NWRA Strategy can be viewed or downloaded here.

Written submissions or observations with respect to the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly and the accompanying reports may be made between 19th November 2018 and 5pm on 8th February 2019 (both dates inclusive) through one of the following media:

On Line: Completing the RSES Web Submission Form available here.

Email: rses@nwra.ie

Mail: ‘RSES Submissions’, NWRA, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. F45 W674

The focus of this post has been on the NWRA RSES.  In a future post we will outline key elements of the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  (consultation closing date is 8th March 2019).  The Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly Draft RSES is also currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 23rd January 2019.

 

Helen McHenry

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- Conference Report

The Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference was held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September.  Appropriate for the location, it had the theme “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.  The presentations are available here.

Figure 1: Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT

The conference covered a range of themes relating to regional development and how urban areas interact with their rural regions.  It was opened by Dr Chris O’Malley from Sligo IT who discussed the role of Sligo IT in the development of industry and manufacturing in the region and the IT’s role as an integrator of national policy at regional level.  Dr Deirdre Garvey, chairperson of the Western Development Commission, welcomed delegates to the conference noting how pleased the WDC was to be sponsoring the Annual Conference.  She also welcomed the fact that the conference was taking place in the North West, given the recognition in the National Planning Framework of the specific challenges for the region and how the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) process highlight the distinct challenges and opportunities for our predominantly rural region.

These addresses were followed by a very interesting session on the history of Irish planning over the last 50 years.  Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University) presented on regional development policy following the 1968 Buchanan report and its impact on industry locations and spatial development.  Dr Breathnach also presented the paper by Prof. Jim Walsh (Maynooth University) who was unable to attend the conference.  He examined the influence of both the Buchanan report and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, considered the learnings from these and the factors which will influence the success of the National Planning Framework process.  Finally in this session, Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) presented on the structural and spatial evolution of the Irish urban hierarchy since Buchanan, and examined urban population data over time and the distribution of population across the settlement hierarchy.  He noted that it was important to understand changes projected by the NPF in the context of historic trends

Figure 2: Dr Proinnsias Breathnach (Maynooth University), Prof. Des McCafferty (University of Limerick) and Deirdre Frost (WDC)

After coffee the session on Regional Strategy and Planning covered a broad range of topics.  Louis Nuachi (DIT) presented on the importance of social and cultural objectives in town planning using a case study of planning in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.  David Minton, the CEO of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) discussed issues for the development of the North and West in the RSES, some of the historic development of the region and a number of the challenges in developing a region wide approach.  Finally in that session, John Nugent (IDA) discussed the IDA role in attracting Foreign Direct Investment to the region and some of the important factors which influence the location of FDI, including the importance of having a strong indigenous sector already in place and the ways the indigenous and foreign sectors are mutually beneficial.

After lunch international perspectives were provided by Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University.

Dr Copus paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective noted that optimistic assumptions about how a wider functional region benefits from city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts.   He discussed the two strands of ideas on policy for urban rural development that of polycentricity and rural urban co-operation (theories which are stronger in EU countries and in OECD work), and City Regions (which have tended to have more focus in the UK).  He highlighted the importance of defining what is meant by rural when considering the impact of such regional policies and  he discussed the development and implementation of regional policy by the Scottish and UK governments in Scotland.

He noted that in general in these deals the dominant rationale relates more to “Smart Specialisation” than to any kind of urban rural cooperation, interaction or spread effect concept, but the way growth deals developing for rural areas of Scotland will fit into the Post Brexit rural development landscape remains to be seen.

Figure 3: Audience at the conference

Prof. Mark Partridge’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? noted how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion.

He discussed the background of rural and peripheral economic growth, noting the United States is a good place to examine these due its spatial heterogeneity.   He showed that, contrary to public perceptions, in the US urban areas do not entirely dominate rural areas in terms of growth.  Rural US counties with greater shares of knowledge workers grow faster than metro areas (even metros with knowledge workers).

He had some clear suggestions for regional policy, noting that governance should shift from separate farm/rural/urban policies to a regional policy though a key issue is to get all actors to participate and believe their input is valued. In rural development it is important to leverage local social capital and networks to promote good governance and to treat all businesses alike and avoid “picking winners.  Rural communities should be attractive to knowledge workers and commuters, while quality of life, pleasant environment, sustainable development; good public services such as schools are important to attract return migrants.  Building local entrepreneurship is key too and business retention and expansion is better than tax incentives for outside investment.

Figure 4: Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University)

In the final session ‘Understanding Regional and Urban Dynamics’ I gave a presentation on what regional accounts can tell up about our regional economies and discussed some of the issues associated with the regional data and the widening of disparities among regions.  Dr Chris Van Egeraat (Maynooth University) presented a paper, written with Dr Justin Doran (UCC) which used a similar method to Prof. Partridge to estimate trickle down effects of Irish Urban centres and how they influence the population in their wider regions.  Finally Prof. Edgar Morgenroth (DCU) presented on the impacts of improvements in transport accessibility across Ireland highlighting some of the changes in accessibility over time and noted that despite these changes human capital is the most important factor influencing an area’s development.

While the conference had smaller attendance than previous years there was good audience participation and discussion of the themes.  The conference papers are now available on the WDC website here and will shortly be available on the RSA website.

 

Helen McHenry

City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions- join the debate!

The theme of this year’s Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference, to be held in the Institute of Technology Sligo on Friday 7th September, is “City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions”.

The conference will examine how urban areas interact with their rural regions and whether the development of the city or urban area leads to wider development.

Two international experts, Dr Andrew Copus from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and Professor Mark Partridge, the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University, have been invited to present other countries’ experience on this theme and to stimulate debate about the reality of city led development.

Andrew’s paper  The Scottish City Region Deals – A rural development perspective. considers how urban-rural interaction is a long-established element of the “theory of change” associated with regional development policy. Optimistic assumptions about wider functional region benefits of city investments, are commonplace and generally unquestioned, despite meagre evidence of such impacts. A summary history of urban-rural concepts in the European policy discourse, will be followed by a brief account of rural/regional policy in Scotland. Against this background the origin and evolution of Scotland’s City Region Deals, and Regional Partnerships, will be described. The presentation will conclude with some reflections on the how these evolving arrangements fit into an already cluttered policy landscape, their compatibility with rural policy “mainstreaming”, and the likely benefits for rural Scotland.

Mark’s paper Is there a future for Rural in an Urbanizing World and Should We Care? examines how rural areas have received increased attention with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Western countries, in which a strong part of their support is rural based. While the underlying reasons are complex and unique to each country, one common feature is that rural areas have typically faced recent economic decline, creating anxiety, and in some cases, anger of rural residents directed at their urban counterparts. Thus, bridging this rural-urban economic divide takes on added importance in not only improving the individual livelihoods of rural residents but in increasing social cohesion. One way to bridge this economic gap is to improve rural-urban economic linkages through an urban-led economic strategy. For example, urban growth can create commuting and market opportunities for rural residents and firms if there is sufficient connectivity. While such a process has strong theoretical advantages it also requires rural areas to more carefully think about quality of life to attract and retain residents who would otherwise relocate to urban areas.

The issues in Ireland are examined in other presentations and it is to be hoped that the conference will provide useful input to the discussion about regional development in Ireland as the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies of Project Ireland 2040 are drafted. The draft conference programme is below.

Detailed Conference Information can be accessed here (including speaker bios, directions, and accommodation). 

Register here for the conference (€70 including lunch) and come along and join in the debate.

 

Helen McHenry

A Snapshot of the Western Region – WDC publishes a series of county infographics

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published a series of eight infographics showing of key statistics for the Western Region and each of its seven counties.  The data is from the CSO’s Census of Population in 2016 with analysis by the WDC.

 

The infographic shows

  • The population of the county
  • The percentage living in rural areas.
  • The percentage of the working age population is in the labour force
  • Average time to travel to work in minutes

There is a different infographic for each county and there is also one for the Western Region.   The Region’s infographic  shows the Western Region population growth since the last Census in 2011 (1.0%) and the growth over the last ten years (8.7%).

The Region has more females (50.4%) than males and that 15% of the population are over 65 and more than a fifth are under 15 (21.1%).

Infographics are an entertaining way to provide information about the Region and its counties.  They show important county characteristics and information in an accessible and lively way.  We hope they will be used in schools and in workplaces and anywhere that people want to know more about the places where they live or are visiting.

There is a good mix of statistics highlighted on the infographics, showing access to broadband in the Western Region (64%) and also that most of the population consider themselves to be in very good health (57.6%).

The infographics also give information about work and education.  In the Western Region the average time taken to travel to work is 24.8 minutes.  59% of the working age population is in the work force and 39% have a third level qualification.  Two employment sectors are also shown.  Almost 14% of the Region’s workers are in Industry and 6.8% working in agriculture.

You can download the infographics for the Western Region and for the seven counties here:  https://www.wdc.ie/publications/reports-and-papers/

 

Helen McHenry

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

Local Property Tax in the Western Region

Local Property Tax (LPT) data for each county is released regularly by Revenue and includes information on the number of properties, the compliance rate and the amount of LPT collected.  While data is available to June 2016, because collection for the year is not complete[1] the focus of this post is on data for 2013 to 2015 for Western Region counties[2].

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[3].

In this post the properties returned, the compliance rate and the amount of LPT collected and the property valuation distribution for counties in the Western region is considered.

Properties Returned

The total number of properties returned for payment of the LPT in the Western Region was 354,400[4] in 2015.  This varies from 15,600 in Leitrim (this is the smallest number in any local authority in Ireland) to 70,500 in county Galway.

 

Figure 1: Properties returned for the LPT in the Western Region in 2015

lpt-blog-fig-1
Source: Local Property Tax (LPT) Statistics 2013-2015, Revenue, June 2016

Donegal had a similar number of properties returned in 2015 (70,300) while Mayo had (58,000) and Clare (51,500) were the next largest counties.

Nationally 1,861,000 properties were returned for collection in 2015 with the largest numbers of properties, as would be expected, in Dublin city (229,700) and Cork city (163,700) followed by the other Dublin Local Authority areas.

In all counties of the Western Region there were fewer properties returned in 2015 than in either 2013 or 2014, although this is likely to relate to some extent to the time it can take to collect some LPT.

Compliance Rate for LPT

The national compliance rate[5] for payment of the property tax was 97% in 2015 but there is significant variation in the compliance rates among counties.  Donegal had the lowest compliance rate in the country in 2015 at 91.5%, with Leitrim the next lowest (93.8%).  Laois (99.7%) has the highest compliance rate in the country, followed closely by Fingal (99.6%).

Three Local Authority areas in the Western Region Galway county (97.9%), Galway city (97.1%) and Roscommon (97.1%) had compliance rates higher than the national average.

Compliance rates have varied over the last few years with most Local Authority areas showing a decline from a peak compliance in 2013 or 2014.  However, this is due, at least in part, to the ongoing nature of the collection process.

Figure 2: Compliance rates for LPT in the Western Region 2013-2015

lpt-blog-fig-2

Source: Local Property Tax (LPT) Statistics 2013-2015, Revenue, June 2016

Donegal, for example, had a compliance rate of 93.1% in 2013 and this was also, at that stage, the lowest in the country.  In contrast in Galway city compliance increased in 2014 (97.4%) and fell slightly in 2015.

LPT Collected

In 2015 €437m in Local Property Tax was collected nationally (of which €62.7m was collected in the Western Region).  In the Western Region the least amount (€2.1m) collected for a local authority area was for Leitrim.  This was joint lowest nationally with Longford where the same amount was collected in 2015.  Roscommon (€3.8m) and Sligo (€5.2m) also had relatively low LPT amounts collected.

Galway county had the highest LPT take in the Western Region at €14.3m in 2015 with Donegal (€10.8m) and Mayo (€9.9m) somewhat lower. Clare and Galway city both collected over €8m.

Figure 3: LPT collected for each Local Authority Area 2014 and 2015

lpt-blog-fig-3
Source: Local Property Tax (LPT) Statistics 2013-2015, Revenue, June 2016

Clearly the amount collected for each local authority area is a function of the number of properties in that area, the compliance rate and the Local Adjustment Factor applied by the Local Authority as well as the valuation of the properties.

Valuation Bands in Local Authorities.

With substantial variations in property values across the country, there is also very significant variation in the proportions of properties in each Local Authority area in each valuation band.  For example, in Longford 60.1% of properties are valued at less than €100,000 while in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown only 1.4% are.  Similarly in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 58.3% of properties are valued over €300,000 while only 0.2% are in Leitrim and Longford.

Figure 4 below shows the percentage of properties in each valuation band for the Local Authority areas in the Western Region.  Leitrim (59.7%), Roscommon (56.1%) and Donegal (50.2%) all had more than half of their properties in the lowest rate band.  This compares to the national average of 27%.

Figure 4: Percentage in each valuation band for Local Authorities in the Western Region

lpt-blog-fig-4

Source: Local Property Tax (LPT) Statistics 2013-2015, Revenue, June 2016, preliminary analysis

 

In contrast only Galway city had more than 5% of its properties valued over €300,000, compared to the national average of 9%.

The variation in the proportions of properties in the different valuation bands is not unexpected but it does have very significant impact on the revenue a local authority can gain from the LPT.

Conclusion

While not the most significant revenue stream for Local Authorities the LPT is nonetheless important.  The blog PublicPolicy.ie   has shown that the Local Property Tax (LPT) will account for a quarter of the total income of the Local Government Fund (LGF) in 2016[6], totalling €437.6m, While motor tax is expected to comprise 60% of the Local Government Fund income, exchequer funding (16%) is the other source.

It is useful to have a good understanding of the differences among counties in LPT collected, compliance rates and property valuation.  While for some Local Authorities LPT can be an important source of funding in many of the Western Region Local Authorities the LPT is not likely to be a very significant revenue source.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] The Revenue continues to collect LPT for the years 2013-2015 also.

[2] Updated in June 2015

[3] Thanks to staff at revenue statistics unit for providing me with data in excel format and for answering my questions about the LPT.

[4] Numbers have been rounded.

[5] The compliance rate compares the number of properties returned against the expected register of 1.95m extrapolated from CSO census information.  Work is ongoing to validate the Revenue register size.

[6] http://www.publicpolicy.ie/local-government-fund/