LEADER is a multi-annual programme covering the period 2014-2020 and is delivered through Local Action Groups (LAGs) in each of the 28 LEADER sub-regional areas around the country. In order for a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be compatible with the actions outlined in the approved Local Development Strategy for the relevant LEADER sub regional area, and it must comply with the Operating Rules and EU Regulations in place for the programme.
The LAG may award funding under all themes and sub themes of the LEADER 2014-2020 programme to a maximum rate of aid of 50% of the total project cost to both Private and Community applicants. This percentage may be increased to 75% for analysis and development type projects and to 100% for training type projects. These are maximum rates of aid and the LAG may award lower rates of aid as it considers appropriate. The LAG considers the rate of aid offered on a project-by-project basis.
Higher maximum rates of aid may be awarded to community-based projects where there is no commercial basis for the project and where the project applicant satisfies certain additional criteria.
Maximum rates of aid for the LEADER programme are set at EU level. Each Member State, can if it deems it appropriate, set lower maximum rates of aid. The setting of lower rates enables a greater number of projects to be supported from the overall funding available.
The current 50% maximum rate of aid in Ireland for project applicants (whether Private or Community applicants) where the project generates an economic activity is a national rule and was in place under all previous LEADER programmes.
Based on an analysis of private sector projects funded to date where the maximum rate of aid was 50%, my Department estimates that the application of a 75% aid rate would have cost an extra €16.5 million. This increase would have negatively impacted on the funding available to many other applicants for LEADER funding.
The decision to approve any project, including the level of funding to be awarded and the applicable rate of aid (subject to the maximum threshold limits), is a matter for the LAGs. The delineation of what constitutes a private or community project essentially hinges around the type of activity involved in each case.