LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a total budget of €250 million over the period to 2020.
Total expenditure on the LEADER programme since it commenced, which was effectively in 2016 when the majority of funding agreements were signed, amounts to €34 million. This comprises: €1.47 million in initial costs incurred by the LEADER local action groups to develop local development strategies; €21.6 million in administration costs of the local action groups and the cost of their engagement with communities to generate projects, which is also referred to as animation costs; and €11 million on project expenditure.
The level of project activity under the LEADER programme has increased significantly this year. A total of 1,525 projects have now been approved for funding of more than €50 million, compared with 592 projects approved at the end of 2017. A further 370 applications, requesting an additional €23.4 million, are at various stages in the approval process.
Project payments have also increased significantly in recent months as approved works are completed and claims are submitted. More than €10 million of project expenditure has been incurred in 2018, compared with just under €700,000 in 2017.
I expect the progress being made on the LEADER programme will continue as further projects are approved and payment claims are made. The progress has been assisted by improvements made by my Department in the past year to the applications and approvals process in consultation with the local action groups.