€6 million in LEADER funding must be distributed before the end of 2020
Local authority officials are being urged to come to the aid of community groups looking to apply for around €6m in Leader funding which has to be allocated to organisations before the end of 2020.
Longford secured a total of €7.6m back in 2014 under the programme, which was designed by the EU to support community initiatives as part of the Common Agricultural Policy.
However, the scheme has been subject to a barrage of red tape with an estimated 20 per cent or around €1.5m distributed to groups across the county in the interim.
The issue was one which resurfaced at a recent meeting of Longford County Council where calls were again made for the local authority to assist groups looking to tap into the fund.
Cllr PJ Reilly said he believed some communities were being hamstrung in their efforts due to the time consuming nature and all-round bureaucratic nature of the process.
“A lot of people out there just haven’t time with their day jobs and they are going to their local parish centres for meetings at 8 o’clock in the evenings and it is just too strenuous and stressful for many of these groups,” he said.
The long serving Fianna Fáil local politician also alluded to the difficulties many communities face in raising enough resources of their own to qualify for the scheme.
“The other issue is matched funding,” he said.
“It can be an issue to raise funds locally to make an application and I do think every support at all possible should be given to groups out there to help them with their application.”
His party running mate Cllr Seamus Butler who serves as chairperson of Longford Community Development Committee (LCDC), the body charged with distributing the funding, said he remained upbeat as to the future rollout of the remaining monies.
“A review is being done next year and if we don’t step up to the plate and help these communities there is a danger that it (money) might have to be returned,” he warned.
“We don’t want that and I have every confidence we will see a significant uptake of funds in 2019.”
Cllr Colm Murray, who previously held the position now enjoyed by Cllr Butler, said there was an argument to be made for additional staff to be taken on to assist in those efforts.
“Two issues surrounding Leader funding at the moment are the complexity of the process and matched funding,” he said.
“Micheal Ring’s (Minister for Rural Affairs) department have a number of different funding streams available that are easier to apply for.
“And the reason they are easier to apply for is they have a team of dedicated staff in place.”