There are 35 Local Development Companies (LDCs) contracted, on my Department’s behalf, to deliver the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) throughout the country.
In line with the ‘bottom-up’ approach to rural development the LDCs are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Programme’s Operating Rules and EU regulations. The LDCs can approve projects without the approval of my Department.
My Department only becomes involved in a project once the Board of the LDC has approved it and the Board minutes are submitted to my Department for review.
The only exception to this is projects that request funding of €150,000 or more, these projects are required to seek final approval from my Department. Again, however, this is after Board approval. The assessment of these higher value projects usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant local development company.
The project referred to in the Question is one such project. It was approved by County Kildare LEADER Partnership at their December 2012 Board meeting. While a list of the projects approved at that meeting, including this project, was submitted to my Department on 21 January, 2013, its eligibility was not reviewed at that time as my Department was awaiting the submission of the entire project file for a full assessment in line with the Programme’s Operating Rules. The project file was received in my Department on 3 May 2013.
The European Commission requires that there is clear demarcation in Member States between various grant schemes to ensure that there is no duplication of funding. In this regard, as there was funding for childcare facilities available from other Government Departments, my Department in setting out the Operating Rules for the RDP excluded projects relating to childcare as eligible activities for funding. The Programme’s Operating Rules state “Aid shall not be awarded or paid in respect of the following mainstream categories…childcare”. I understand that the project in question had previously secured funding from the National Childcare Investment Programme but the project did not proceed.
Following an assessment of the file, County Kildare LEADER Partnership was informed that my Department considered the project ineligible on the grounds that it was for the provision of a childcare facility. The Group has been advised that the decision is open to appeal to a Principal Officer in my Department.