I may address the LEADER issue after my initial statement.
I appreciate the opportunity to present this request for a technical Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Rural and Community Development. It will facilitate the allocation of additional funding of €10 million for the Covid-19 stability fund, increasing the total value of that fund to €45 million. It will also finance a community resilience fund, which will assist community groups to continue to operate and provide services in a Covid-19 environment. It will also encourage involvement in the Keep Well campaign which focuses on keeping active, staying connected, switching off and being creative, eating well, and minding one's mood.
As noted, this is a technical Supplementary Estimate with no net increase to the vote. The €10 million is to be recouped from the Dormant Accounts Fund, with the community resilience fund financed through current savings identified in the Department’s Vote.
With regard to the Covid stability fund, the planned additional funding of €10 million will see the total fund increase from €35 million to €45 million. The original €35 million allocation was shared across three Departments, with €22 million for my own Department, €10 million for the Department of Health and €3 million for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. This funding split was based on the sectors that grantees operated within. However, for ease of administration at this stage of the year, the proposed additional €10 million would be allocated to the Department of Rural and Community Development Vote, and would see the Department's provision increase from €22 million to €32 million.
The purpose of the Covid stability fund is to provide grants to charities, community and voluntary organisations, and social enterprises that provide critical services to the most vulnerable in society and which have seen their revenue drop significantly during the pandemic. Pobal is administering the scheme on behalf of my Department, and to date four tranches of grants have been announced, allocating funding of €30.1 million to 568 organisations. Full information on the grants made to date is available on gov.ie. However, I will mention a few organisations that have benefited. There has been €200,000 for Mayo-Roscommon Hospice Foundation; €85,000 for Killorglin Family Resource Centre; €34,000 for Galway Autism Partnership; and €19,000 for Corduff Community Resource Centre. These examples demonstrate the broad range of organisations benefiting and the services that can be maintained due to this funding.
The pandemic is continuing to weigh heavily on the sector. Challenges remain, such as the level 5 restrictions entered into in recent weeks. The logic for the additional €10 million is to mitigate these impacts and others. The additional funding will further support organisations assisted under the first round so they can continue their important work in assisting the national response to the pandemic. I am certain that the funding to date and this additional funding have been a vital support so that these and similar organisations can continue their work and help those in need during these challenging times.
I would finally note that this is a technical Supplementary Estimate, as the measure is being financed through the Dormant Accounts Fund. The funding is recouped from the Dormant Account Fund, managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, rendering this expenditure Exchequer neutral. I think the use of the Dormant Accounts Fund has been central to ensuring that these supports for the broad community and voluntary sector have been of such a significant scale. I am delighted that, given the source of this money, it is being put to such a practical and important use.
On the community resilience fund, the second technical Supplementary Estimate is seeking movement of current savings from subhead B11, community enhancement programme, to enable a community resilience fund for small grant supports to community facilities and organisations at local level. These proposed supports will assist two areas. First, they will assist local community and voluntary groups to adapt their services and operations to fit the new Covid-19 reality. This is consistent with an action assigned to our Department under the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19. Examples of measures supported could be funding consumables necessary to support public health guidelines, including social distancing, offering online activities, providing social supports and friendly calls by phone etc. Second, they will help to animate community groups to enable them to become more involved in the Government's Keep Well campaign. It will seek to assist their participation in all five themes of the plan, particularly the staying connected theme.
Funding will be allocated to each local authority area, and the fund will be administered by the local authority development committees, LCDCs. Sufficient flexibility under the fund will be granted to support community groups with day-to-day running costs if needed. Savings identified initially for this proposal amount to €770,000, with €570,000 from subhead A4, rural supports, and €200,000 from B5, LCDC supports. This forms the basis for one element of the technical supplementary before the committee today. The proposal is to open a current element under the B11 community enhancement programme subhead. It is from this subhead that the proposed community resilience fund will be disbursed to LCDCs for onward distribution to local community and voluntary groups as part of Government’s pandemic response.
We continue to assess whether other small current savings can be identified across the Vote and would like to be in a position to supplement this fund further, possibly enabling a fund in the range of €1.5 million to €2 million in total. If further current savings can be identified and the committee is in agreement with the Supplementary Estimate today, any further funding would be subject to sanction by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Overall, the community resilience fund will provide significant practical funding supports at local level with local flexibility and decision making, ensuring the impact on the ground is maximised.
As noted, this technical supplementary is required as the B11 community enhancement programme subhead contains only capital funding, so a Vote is required to enable current expenditure. Again, this measure is net expenditure neutral given that savings elsewhere are funding the proposal. However, it will ensure that our current funding is put to best use in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I thank the committee for taking the time to consider the Supplementary Estimate and I am happy to answer any questions that arise.
I will say a little bit about LEADER. I reassure the committee that active planning is ongoing and there will be an announcement very soon. The current seven-year programme, which is co-funded by the European Commission, will come to an end at the end of this year.
I will just go through a few context points. Proposals for a successor LEADER programme at EU level are intrinsically linked to the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, which co-funds the LEADER programme. Proposals for the post-2020 CAP were launched in June 2018 by the European Commission. However, given the lengthy nature of discussions on the CAP and the wider EU budget at EU level, there has been a delay in adopting these proposals. This means that the next LEADER programme will not commence until January 2022 at the earliest.
The programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme, which will not commence until 2022 at the earliest. The objective of this commitment is to allow rural development projects to continue to be delivered under a transitional programme using the LEADER model until the new EU programme commences.
An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in budget 2021 to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. I can confirm that this allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion as well as for new projects to be approved under the transitional fund.
The funding will also support the administration costs of the local action groups, including their implementing partners who deliver the programme locally, in closing out the existing programme and delivering the transitional programme.
It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multi-annual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years as and when they are completed. In this context, costs related to projects under the transitional programme are also likely to be met from the provision in my Departments Vote in 2022 and 2023.
The design, duration and composition of the transitional programme are currently being finalised and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, hopes to be in a position to shortly announce the full details of project and administration allocations under the programme. To give reassurance, we are acutely aware in the Department of the importance of LEADER and the importance of keeping the moment going on it as well. There will be an announcement coming soon.