Rural and Community Development | Engagements and future proposals with the LEADER programme
To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the extent to which her Department has supported various communities throughout the country through the LEADER programme in the past year; her current engagements and future proposals in this regard; 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.
The programme includes specific funding themes to support rural economic development, enterprise development and job creation, social inclusion, and rural environment. Community groups and rural-based businesses can apply for funding under these themes.
Approximately 90% of project funding under the current programme has been committed by LEADER groups and I am aware that they continue to develop projects ‘in the pipeline’ in order to fully utilise the available budget.
Nationally, over 5,500 projects have been approved for funding in excess of €236 million since 2016 when the current LEADER programme became operational, of which over €34.2 million relates to 726 projects approved in 2022. Payments of almost €157 million have been made in respect of these projects with almost €40 million being paid out in 2022.
€250m has been made available for LEADER for the period 2021 to 2027. This is comprised of €70 million for the transitional period 2021 to 2022 and an additional €180 million from 2023 to 2027. This level of funding is evidence of the Government’s continued support for the LEADER programme and matches the €250m provided for LEADER in the corresponding 7 year period from 2014-2020.
The process of selecting the LEADER groups will be open, transparent and competitive. Central to the formation of the Groups will be a clear partnership approach, with public and private interest groups coming together to deliver the programme in rural communities all across Ireland.
I am happy to confirm that the Expression of Interest stage to select the Groups to deliver the next LEADER programme is now open with a closing date of 16 December 2022. The allocations for each LEADER area have also been announced as part of this process.
It is now important that the key public and private stakeholders in communities across Ireland come together in partnership to deliver a LEADER programme that will build on the fantastic success of the programme over the last 30 years and to ensure that LEADER continues to play a central role in supporting rural communities into the future.
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