Changes to Leader funding to benefit community groups

Figures revealed recently in relation to Leader Programme funding spend indicates that 43 percent of the original €400m has been earmarked by the 36 Local Action Groups (LAGs), including those in counties Longford, Leitrim, Westmeath and Cavan.

Figures revealed recently in relation to Leader Programme funding spend indicates that 43 percent of the original €400m has been earmarked by the 36 Local Action Groups (LAGs), including those in counties Longford, Leitrim, Westmeath and Cavan.

According to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the total money either spent or in the pipeline for spend under the Leader Programme is approximately €174m. €78m has already been paid out with Longford Community Resources Ltd (LCRL) in receipt of €8,714,110 and €1,794,455 paid out to date for various projects. A further €45m will also be allocated where contracts have been issued and LCRL has provided €668,037 to contracts issued to date.

LAGs across the Country are still waiting on a number of applicants to finalise projects and draw down the money from the Programme. The Leader also understands that a further €51m has been set aside for applications that have been received and are currently going through the process.

LCRL has received applications to date for amounts totalling €424,199, with overall spend estimated at nearly €3m; €788,878 has already been allocated for administration. Thirty three percent of original allocations spent, or at the very least earmarked, at this stage, have been provided for by Leader Programme funding through LCRL.

In Co Leitrim, 44 percent of original allocations under the Programme has been funded through Leitrim Integrated Development Co Ltd. Original allocation spend was €10,845,497 and the total paid out to date is €1,846,556. Spend for contracts issued to date includes €486,314, while €2,451,843 has been earmarked for applications currently being processed. Total spend for projects so far is €4,784,712, with administration cost estimated at €1,098,846.

Westmeath Community Development Ltd has less than 30 percent of its original allocation spent or earmarked for projects in the area at this stage, while Cavan/Monaghan Leader has 37 percent of its funding drawn down.

The funding structure has moved to a centralised system that will allow LAGs to draw additional funding under different headings and the Department is confident that local development companies contracted to deliver the Rural Development Programme will reach the expenditure required to draw down the maximum level of EU funding in the current Programme period 2007-2014. The changes to the funding structure will mean that more money will become available to community groups and to entrepreneurs struggling to access credit through financial institutions.