Rural and Community Development | To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she continues to support the Leader Programme in all applicable areas throughout the country
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which she continues to support the Leader Programme in all applicable areas throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The LEADER Programme is one of the key interventions of Our Rural Future, the Government’s Policy for rural development launched last year.
The 2014-2020 LEADER programme had a total allocation of €250 million. €225 million of this budget was allocated directly to the Local Action Groups (LAGs) who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level. This funding was allocated to the LAGs for the programming period rather than on an annual basis to give them greater flexibility to manage their budgets. The balance of €25 million was provided for thematic projects which are approved at national level.
In December 2020, I launched the Transitional LEADER Programme, which came into effect from 1 April 2021 and will run to the end of 2022. A total of €70 million has been made available over this programming period. €65 million of this budget is available to LAGs who deliver the programme and approve projects at local level. This funding is distributed between the LAGs on a pro-rata basis, commensurate with the allocations made at the start of the 2014-2020 LEADER programme.
A further €3 million of the funding has been allocated to support co-operation projects and innovation between LAGs, while the remaining €2 million is being provided to support strategy development for the next LEADER programme.
Currently over 5,200 projects have been approved for funding of €220 million. Approximately €139 million has been paid to beneficiaries in respect of completed works with 3,250 projects receiving their final payment claim representing 62% of projects approved.
An indicative budget of €180 million has been announced for the LEADER programme for the period 2023-2027. When taken together with the €70 million already provided for 2021 and 2022 under the Transitional LEADER Programme, a total of €250 million will be made available for the 2021 – 2027 period, thus maintaining the level of funding provided for the 2014-2020 programming period. The maintenance of the €250m funding allocation will underpin the continued contribution of the LEADER approach in delivering on the Government’s vision for Rural Ireland.
Preparations for the design and delivery of the next LEADER programme from 2023-2027 are well underway and there is ongoing engagement between my officials, colleagues from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and the EU Commission with a view to obtaining approval for the CAP Strategic Plan, as a matter of priority.
The ongoing engagement and consultation with stakeholders, combined with the funding allocation of €250 million indicated, will ensure that the LEADER programme from 2023 will continue to support and further develop our rural communities and businesses.
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