Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Questions (93)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

93. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs her views on whether the application process for the current Leader programme is too bureaucratic. [27586/17]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

In total, €250 million will be invested in LEADER over the period to 2020. The programme is co-financed by the European Union to the value of €157 million through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and is subject to the EU Regulatory provisions governing rural development funding. It is important, therefore, that appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure that the funding is delivered to the satisfaction of national and EU auditors.

However, I also want to see the LEADER programme implemented as effectively and as efficiently as possible and I am aware of concerns regarding some of the administrative procedures related to the programme. Therefore, on 17th May last, I hosted a forum with participants from all of the Local Action Groups and the Local Development Companies delivering LEADER, to explore the issues of concern to them and to identify potential solutions aimed at streamlining the current administrative and application procedures.

The forum, which was attended by more than 70 people, was very productive and participants identified a number of areas where they felt procedures could be streamlined and where the burden on project applicants could be reduced.

On the basis of the feedback at the forum, I gave a commitment to the Local Action Groups and the Local Development Companies present that I would implement a number of the suggestions put forward, while being mindful of the regulatory requirements associated with this EU co-financed programme.

My officials have reviewed all of the contributions made at the forum and have identified a substantial number of changes that can be made to improve the delivery of the LEADER programme. I have written to all of the Local Action Groups and Local Development Companies to update them on the changes that we intend to make, in partnership with them in many instances.

My priority, in hosting the recent forum and developing action points for improving the delivery of the programme, has been on facilitating the work of the Local Action Groups and making LEADER funding more accessible for potential project applicants. I am confident that the changes I am planning to introduce will improve the delivery of the LEADER programme to the benefit of rural communities throughout the country.