The Leader element of the Rural Development Programme 2014–2020 will provide €250 million in financial resources to support the development of sustainable rural communities.
As the Deputy will be aware, under the EU regulatory framework governing the Leader element of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, each EU member state must conduct an open and transparent process to select both the local development strategies and local action groups for each sub-regional area.
Accordingly, my Department is conducting a two-stage process. The first stage, which is an expressions of interest, EOI, stage, was recently launched. Any entity wishing to be considered as a local action group for their area has until 15 May 2015 to submit an EOI.
Local action groups and local development strategies will be selected by an independent selection committee established specifically for that purpose. Entities that are successful in the first stage of the process will be invited and supported in stage two of the process, which involves the design of a local development strategy for their area. I expect that some local development strategies will be operational and that funding will be available for them by autumn 2015.
My Department’s local and community development programme, LCDP, concluded on 31 March 2015 and the new social inclusion and community activation programme, SICAP, was rolled out across communities on 1 April 2015.
SICAP was subject to a public procurement process. Tenderers have now been informed of the outcome of their tender. Local and community development committees, LCDCs, have finalised contracts with the winning tenderers in all but two areas of the country, where interim arrangements to support business continuity have been put in place. I can confirm that funding has been forwarded to SICAP implementing bodies and actions under the programme have now commenced.
The primary focus of the Department is to ensure that front-line services, particularly those focused on the needs of the most socially deprived communities, are protected. I am confident the new programme will continue to provide key supports to those most in need in our communities.
In order to support entities making expressions of interest, my Department has been organising information sessions. Such sessions were held in Nenagh, Tullamore and Sligo last night.