LEADER funds for rural development have been cut more in Cork than any other county, according to the Ballyhoura Development group.
The 2014-2020 allocation of €13.9m for Cork is only 30% of the €46m LEADER funding which was paid out to community and business projects across Cork by Ballyhoura and other local development companies in the 2007-2013 period.
Re-organisation of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has reduced Ireland’s LEADER funding to only 60% of the allocation for the previous seven years.
John Walsh, Chairperson of the Irish Local Development Network and of Ballyhoura Development, has expressed concern at the Co Cork allocation, and has called on Environment Minister Alan Kelly to put more national co-financing into the scheme.
He said Co Cork has been allocated only 6.3% of the national LEADER budget of €220m, and only €34 per rural resident, compared to €155 nationally.
He said the allocation of budget to each county in advance of development of local development strategies is unprecedented. “All previous LEADER allocations were made on merit, as measured by the quality of the local development strategy.”
Meanwhile, local action groups have been invited to apply for the role of delivering the LEADER funding, over the next six years.
The funding will be focused on tackling rural isolation, generating employment, and stimulating village renewal.
“LEADER has supported so many successful businesses that are at the forefront of rural innovation,” said Environment Minister Alan Kelly at this week’s LEADER launch.
“However in the past, too much of this funding was used for local historical books, or to develop rural tourism brochures.
“This time, it has to be spent on projects that will sustain employment in a community.”
Each local area will have to develop a strategy on how best to apply the funding for rural areas, and expressions of interest in how to spend the funding are now being sought from local LEADER companies and others.
The search for local action groups is the first stage of a two-stage process to select high quality local development strategies.
In this first stage, interested parties have until May 15 to submit their expression of interest.
To help them, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government will deliver three regional local action group formation seminars.
They are in the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, on April 21 at 1.30pm; in the Bridge House Hotel, Tullamore, Co Offaly, on April 22; and in the Sligo Southern Hotel, Sligo on April 23 at 1.30pm.
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