Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (2625)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

2625. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of progress on the roll-out of the new LEADER programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33340/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020. €220 million of this budget is allocated to Local Action Groups (LAGs) who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level. The balance of €30 million is provided for thematic projects which are approved at national level.

The current LEADER programme effectively became operational in the second half of 2016, following the signing of Funding Agreements with most of the LAGs. Projects must be selected under the programme by the end of 2020, while payments will continue in 2021 and later years as necessary.

Significant progress is now being made in the delivery of the LEADER programme. To date, 2,170 project applications have been approved by the LAGs for funding of over €77.5 million. A further 357 projects seeking funding of €26.9 million are at earlier stages of the approvals process.

In addition, almost 100 projects have been approved at national level, outside of the core budget available to the LAGs, for Food and Co-operation projects.

The level of progress on the LEADER programme varies between each Local Action Group. However, on average, the LAGs have indicated that over 80% of their available project budget will be allocated by the end of 2019. This will place the LAGs in a strong position to allocate the full amount of funding available before the end of 2020.

Total expenditure on the programme since it commenced is in excess of €55.9 million with €25.5 million of this paid to project promoters. Project payments will increase significantly over the next year or so as project promoters complete approved works and submit claims for payment.

In fact, there is a growing demand for more LEADER funding to be made available in some areas. In this regard, I was very pleased to announce recently that an additional €5 million will be shared between the LAGs that are most advanced in delivering the LEADER programme. This is further evidence of the huge progress made since my Department introduced a range of administrative improvements to the programme in 2017 and 2018.