Dáil debates

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

LEADER Programmes

11:20 am

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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7. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development to outline the consultation that has taken place with stakeholders on the development of a transitional LEADER programme to 2023; and the way in which she plans to proceed in developing a national rural development programme as outlined in the programme for Government. [34151/20]

Alan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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12. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development to set out the LEADER funding following budget 2021 that will be allocated for projects in 2021; if funding will be provided for the delivery and administration of the LEADER programme for 2021; when an interim national rural development plan for the period 2021-23 will be available as committed to in the programme for Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34175/20]

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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18. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development to set out the funding that has been made available for a national rural development programme as committed to in the programme for Government to replace the current LEADER programme in 2021. [34150/20]

Alan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister set out what level of LEADER funding will be allocated for the project in 2021? What funding will be provided for the delivery and administration of the LEADER programme? When will the interim national rural development plan for 2021-23 be published?

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 12 and 18 together.

The programme for Government includes a commitment to prioritise a State-led programme to bridge the gap between the current LEADER programme and the next EU programme. The objective of this commitment is to allow a local-led rural development project to be delivered under a transitional programme until the new EU programme commences.

The next EU programme will not commence until 2022 at the earliest. In recent months, my Department has listened to the views of several stakeholders involved in the delivery of the LEADER programme in respect of the proposed transitional programme. This includes local authorities and the local development companies. The design, duration and composition of the transitional programme is currently being finalised. I hope to be in a position shortly to announce the details of the programme that will come into effect in 2021.

An extra €4 million has been provided for LEADER in budget 2021 to bring the total allocation for next year to €44 million. I can confirm that the allocation will be used to fund a combination of existing projects as they come to completion as well as new projects to be approved under the transitional programme. The funding will also support the administration costs of local action groups in closing out the existing programme and delivering the transitional programme.

It is important to recognise that LEADER is a multiannual programme and that payments in respect of projects which are approved in any given year are generally not drawn down until subsequent years, depending on the nature and scale of the projects concerned. In this context, overall costs related to projects under the transitional programme are likely to be met from the provision in my Department's Vote in 2022 and 2023 as well as in 2021.

Alan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister for her detailed response. I wish to acknowledge the excellent work she has done in her Ministry to date. She has built on the progress made since the establishment of the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2017 by the former Minister, Deputy Michael Ring.

I thank the Minister for her comments on her work alongside the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, and the confirmation that the Northern and Western Regional Assembly will continue to be used as a vehicle to support EU-backed projects for the north-west region. That is crucial. It is a vital step for rural development in the west and north west.

In my constituency we have the South West Mayo Development Company and the Mayo North East company. They support vital jobs in Ireland as well as social and economic development within the county. The Mayo Local Action Group is one of the top-ten performing local action groups under the leader programme. The additional allocation of €4 million in the budget recently was vital and welcome. We need to continue with the work and with the LEADER programme. The Minister's support in this regard would be valuable and greatly appreciated.

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I know the Mayo local development companies do good work. I wish to continue to support the companies in finishing off this programme. The end of this year is the end date for announcing new projects. Some of the companies still have several projects and applications to which they have yet to allocate funding. It will take some time for these projects to draw down the money. The local development companies will be fairly busy in the coming year and a half or so in ensuring these projects are delivered. They will be working with the promoters. I can assure the Deputy that there is €44 million in the budget for next year. That will cover the existing projects that have been approved. It will also include a transitional programme. I will be announcing details of that in the coming weeks and I will be engaging with stakeholders.

Alan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I have one final question on the consultation process and the steps that the Minister will undertake with the various stakeholders. Will the Minister elaborate on that as we move into this transitional LEADER programme?

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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As the Minister has said, there was a commitment in the programme for Government to have the transitional programme. The Minister, the former Minister, Deputy Ring, and I were responsible for that. I too welcome the decision to include the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in rolling out the next programme.

There was a lot of scaremongering around that over the summer. I am glad that commitment in the programme for Government was answered.

In the post-Covid environment LEADER may be the only show in town for a lot of organisations and a lot of major development. During 2021 how much of the €44 million will be available for new projects and new calls? Will there be any prospect of new calls for new projects launching in 2021?

I join others in paying tribute to all the LEADER staff, particularly those in the LEADER companies in Mayo and the Department's staff in Ballina, where the programme is headquartered. We look forward to welcoming the Minister to Ballina when conditions allow in order that she can see for herself the superb team she has there.

11:30 am

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I agree with Deputy Calleary that the staff in Ballina do really good work there, work extremely hard and engage a lot. I have spoken to them on a number of occasions via the Internet, on Zoom, Webex or whatever else they are using, but I hope to visit Ballina as soon as I can.

As for the Northern and Western Regional Assembly, I was delighted to work on that matter with Deputy Calleary and the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, who gave approval for the funding to be rolled out. That is extremely important.

I am continually speaking to different people individually about the LEADER companies. I have not met them as a group yet but it is my plan to meet them very shortly. To be clear, they have until the middle of 2022 to complete these projects and there will be a fund for a transitional programme. I am considering that and will announce it in the coming weeks. I am happy to engage with the Deputies on this matter and I will also engage with the stakeholders. I wish to support them in the good work they do while bearing in mind that I will carry out a review of the programme. That is the right and wise thing to do. We want to see what has and has not worked well and identify the weaknesses and address them. I look forward to working with the LEADER companies in that regard.