LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a budget of €250 million for the period 2014-2020. The current LEADER programme effectively became operational in the second half of 2016, following the signing of Funding Agreements with most of the Local Action Groups who deliver the programme.
The volume of LEADER project approvals has increased substantially since the beginning of 2018 in particular. At the end of April 2019, 1,867 projects were approved for funding of over €64.3 million. This represents a three-fold increase in project approvals since December 2017.
A further 403 LEADER projects with a value of €25.4 million were at earlier stages of the approvals process. I expect to see the approvals and expenditure figures continue to rise substantially as the year progresses.
Overall, programme expenditure to end of April was almost €48 million. This has increased further to €49.5 million since the start of May. Expenditure includes both project costs and the costs of the Local Action Groups who administer the programme and work with promoters to develop projects. Project expenditure will increase further throughout the year as approved works are completed and claims are submitted to my Department for payment.
The level of project approvals and the increase in expenditure shows that we are now making good progress in the delivery of the LEADER programme. However, I will continue to closely monitor the programme carefully to ensure that the budget available is fully utilised.