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Minister O’Sullivan Launches Socio-Economic Performance Index

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Minister Jan O’Sullivan on Thursday 2nd May launched a report on the socio-economic performance of Ireland’s Gateways and Hubs.  The Gateways and Hubs Development Index (GHDI) 2012 represents an examination of Ireland’s key urban centres across a range of performance indicators. Speaking at the launch of the Index at the Custom House, the Minister for Planning and Housing recognised the importance of evidence-based policy-making. She acknowledged the role of the Index as a policy tool to enable “the monitoring of the performance of the regions as whole, in economic, social and environmental terms”. The Minster complimented the Regional Assemblies on performing “a valuable service in assembling a key piece of information for the process of preparing new national and regional strategies”.   The Index reviews current trends across a common framework of key indicators which include population, enterprise, environment, economic, employment and social factors. A public perception study was conducted to complement the findings of the Index. The survey captured residents’ views of the quality of life and the impact of both investment and the economic downturn.   Mr. Gerry Finn, Director of the BMW Regional Assembly in his opening remarks spoke of the three distinct groups of Hub towns. He outlined that, “some hubs fall with the sphere of influence of nearby Gateways such as Mallow, some are linked Hubs as found in Castlebar-Ballina Hub and the rest are strong county towns in their own right such as Kilkenny and Cavan. Therefore when considering the findings of the Index it is their individual performance that is considered over time rather than comparison against each other”.

Mr. Stephen Blair, Director of the S&E Regional Assembly in his presentation stated, “the Index provides a unique opportunity to observe and understand how Gateways and Hubs are developing since the 2009 Index. Increases were evident in particular in the level of broadband provision and take-up, along with rises in the third-level educational attainment of the labour force. In addition there was a drop in crime rates experienced in most Gateways and Hubs. An interesting trend that has emerged from the Index is the divergent patterns of growth experienced around the urban core and their catchment areas, with the catchment area generally growing at twice the rate”.

The Index picked up the impact of the economic downturn with declining rates of new firm formations and significant rises in unemployment across all centres. On a positive note the level of research and development funding that the third level institutions are attracting per student remains strong.

Mr. Finn in his summation stated, “The full findings of the Index will provide a valuable resource for policy-making for Government Departments, Local and Regional Authorities and other major state agencies.

The Index will be replicated again in 2015, thus enabling a continuing comparison over time.