Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Ceisteanna (35)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

35. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the amount spent to date under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme by project and administration costs, respectively; the amount expended to date on project costs by each local action group, LAG; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22890/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Rural)

Here we are again with my usual question on the LEADER programme. I know that the Minister is going to give me all sorts of figures, tell me that everything is hunky-dory and that he is spending money like it is going out of fashion this year. However, the reality is that we are still way behind in LEADER spending this year. Has there been any discussion between the Department of Rural and Community Development and the European Commission on the slow progress in spending this LEADER money?

LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a total budget of €250 million to be allocated over the period 2014-2020. While all funding must be committed by the end of 2020, payments can and will be made in subsequent years as projects are completed. This is no different from the situation which applied under the previous LEADER programme. To date, almost 2,000 LEADER projects have been approved for funding of €69 million by the local action groups, LAGs, which deliver the programme across the country. Another 373 projects with a value of €26 million are going through the approval process. Total expenditure to date by the LAGs on the LEADER programme is €50 million. Of this, just over €21 million has been paid out to more than 800 LEADER projects. Given the level of additional projects also approved for LEADER funding, it is clear that the level of project payments will rise significantly in the coming months as these projects are delivered.

A total of €27.2 million has been paid in respect of the administration costs of the LAGs, including their engagement with promoters to develop projects. LEADER administration costs are always higher in the earlier part of the programme as the LAGs work with businesses and communities to develop project proposals.

However, administration costs cannot exceed 25% of a LAG’s budget over the lifetime of the programme. Therefore, by the time the programme is concluded, there will be three times more expenditure on projects than on administration. This is similar to the situation with the previous LEADER programme. The table which accompanies this reply provides details of core project approvals and project expenditure in each LAG area to date. The figures do not include expenditure under thematic schemes such as the LEADER food initiative and co-operation projects. These are delivered centrally outside of the LAGs' existing budgets.

Table 1: Total LEADER Approvals and   Expenditure by LAG as of 26th May 2019

Local Action Group

No of Projects Approved

Value of Projects Approved

Total Project Payments

Carlow

32

€1,926,280

€1,047,831

Cavan

48

€2,937,974

€1,035,548

Clare

126

€2,437,046

€716,579

Cork North

52

€1,944,561

€559,971

Cork South

22

€873,004

€291,376

Cork West

27

€1,265,267

€203,364

Donegal

108

€4,805,920

€2,541,080

Dublin Rural

49

€1,433,976

€467,865

Galway East

47

€1,768,286

€53,019

Galway West

31

€685,654

€215,412

Kerry

222

€4,402,952

€1,632,026

Kildare

21

€912,242

€211,422

Kilkenny

61

€1,628,417

€686,708

Laois

61

€1,374,314

€741,053

Leitrim

54

€2,032,537

€453,919

Limerick

78

€4,294,519

€1,268,845

Longford

54

€1,351,669

€358,706

Louth

65

€1,740,610

€477,644

Mayo

121

€4,811,744

€788,010

Meath

50

€2,182,725

€223,235

Monaghan

41

€2,420,542

€690,942

Offaly

126

€2,995,345

€1,119,990

Roscommon

44

€2,484,487

€546,829

Sligo

84

€2,679,588

€884,398

Tipperary

118

€3,926,055

€932,154

Waterford

50

€3,393,484

€1,657,159

Westmeath

55

€1,339,403

€402,401

Wexford

95

€3,465,816

€860,356

Wicklow

49

€1,331,716

€229,727

Grand Total

1,991

€68,846,135

€21,297,571

Funding of €69 million is approved and €26 million is in the process, yet only €21 million has been paid out. What is the Minister's anticipated figure for the amount that will actually be paid out by the end of 2019? We had a discussion previously about inconsistencies among LAGs nationally in terms of spend and performance. Following that discussion, the Minister was to go away and kick some heads in. What has the result of his work been and has some sort of consistency of performance been established? Has the Minister looked specifically at those LAGs which are not delivering? Is there any LAG which is at risk of exceeding the 25% threshold in terms of administration versus overall budget? Is it the threshold for the overall national budget or does it apply within each company?

To answer the last question first, no LAG can go over 25%. It is 25% over the life of the programme and under no circumstances can it be exceeded. I will not give the Deputy all the same answers he has got before but I will say the following. He has asked a fair question and I will give him a fair answer. I refer to the new table that was distributed with the reply. Every time the Deputy and other colleagues ask this question, I return to my Department, bring in my officials and ask them what is going on. We have sent officials out to different LEADER companies nationally. To be fair, some of them are performing very well and some are not performing at all. I need to look at this and I will do so. The Deputy asked what we are going to do with the companies that are not performing. I will soon be in a position to make decisions on budgets and I will reward those LEADER companies that are doing well. The ones that are not doing well will not be rewarded. I am looking at the LEADER companies that are not performing and I will have to deal with that. I am not going to leave it too long either.

The Minister will receive support from the House to get those companies that are not performing up to speed. I ask him again for the likely expenditure figure in money paid out by the end of 2019. Have there been any discussions between the Department and the European Commission on the slow expenditure profile? How does our expenditure profile compare with the expenditure profiles of other countries with LEADER programmes?

My understanding is that our profile is the same as those of most member states. Our profile is well up in the first five months of 2019 on the same period last year. I have no doubt that by the end of the year, we will see a major improvement on spend. I have to be fair regarding the companies that are allocating the funds. We have to wait for the schemes to be built and for the work to be done before the money can be drawn down. That is not what I am worried about. Where the allocations have at least been made and the projects are going ahead, I can put up with that. The problem is where no allocation has been made and there is no spend. I do not want to name names but some are as low as 1% of allocations. This cannot and will not go on. I have to do something about it. I am sick and tired of talking to my officials and telling LEADER companies about it. People out there tell me they need money to spend on projects they want to complete. The money is there. It is European and Irish Government money and I want it spent on projects that provide value for money, create jobs and enhance communities. I do not want it lying in LEADER companies not being spent.