Written Answers. - Leader Programmes.

Alan M. Dukes


252 Mr. Dukes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development when the funding arrangements for the new Leader programme will be announced; and when they will be put into effect. [8032/01]

The EU Leader+ draft operational programme was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in November last in accordance with the Commission's guidelines. Under the approval procedure, the Commission has a period of five months in which to examine the programme. My Department is in ongoing contact with the Commission as regards points of clarification which have been sought.

The intention is to gain Commission acceptance and programme approval over the coming weeks. At the same time, final approval will be given for the Leader national rural development programme. The process of selecting groups to deliver the programmes is proceeding in parallel. The independent consultant contracted to assess the business plans which were submitted by rural development groups by way of application is currently assessing the plans and will make recommendations to my Department's selection committee. The committee will make a report to Government and the formal appointment of the appropriate number of groups and the allocation of funding will be decided by Government, having regard to the Commission's approval when received.
A formal announcement regarding the successful groups and their funding allocations will be made following the Government decision.