SIPTU members working at Ballyfermot Chapelizod Partnership Company have expressed serious concerns over Government plans to transfer funding for Local Development Companies (LDCs) to local authorities. Speaking at a successful open day held by the Partnership in the Orchard Community Centre on Tuesday, 28th May, SIPTU member Catherine Lane said: “Local ownership of our company is very important to the communities we  work with. “Our sector has already suffered enough – the local presence and prioritising of work by the local community is essential.” Catherine, who works as a community development co-ordinator, added: “These changes could be very bad for community participation and representation and our organisation as they will result in a loss of local autonomy over decisions as to what actions are focused on at a local level. “At the moment we have a ‘bottom-up’ approach where the local community can have an effective say as to what our priorities should be. So, for example, a priority for our partnership has been supporting people into third-level education. “Handing local decision making over to a Social Economic Committee under the control of the Council will result in a ‘top-down’ approach where the voice of local communities could be threatened.” Justin Purcell, who works as an enterprise co-ordinator with the Partnership, also expressed his concerns about the future. He told Liberty: “Key decisions on our services are being made without any input from front-line staff, and as things stand we have no way of influencing the future structures of our company.” The open day was held to highlight the range of services and supports offered by the partnership. A steady flow of locals from Cherry Orchard came into the centre throughout the day with organisers reporting good levels of engagement and interest. Purcell added: “We run a number of different programmes which are focussed on tackling poverty and disadvantage, supporting people back into employment through our Local Employment Service and TUS schemes, and supporting people to access education at all levels.” The Partnership currently has 80 employees working through TUS. SIPTU Organiser, Paul Hansard, stressed the damage that could be done to funding for LDCs in areas such as education, employment, childcare and community development by the so-called alignment process. He said: “A number of programmes currently receive significant EU funding on the basis of being independently-managed community projects. “Transferring control of these projects to local government will put this funding at risk.” Hansard stressed that SIPTU’s campaign to defend LDCs and their local autonomy will continue." He added: “Our members have a right to have their voices heard on all of these matters. Activists have met with more than 40 members of the Oireachtas to date, and we will continue to increase pressure until such time as our concerns for the future of this sector are addressed.”