Thursday, 9 November 2017
Department of Rural and Community Development
Leader Programmes Administration
240. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps undertaken by his Department to reduce the bureaucracy associated with the new Leader programme; the steps taken to monitor the impact of these changes; his views on whether these steps are adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47525/17]
241. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if the operation of the Leader programme will be reviewed; if so, when this review will commence; the consultation process associated with the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47526/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.
LEADER plays a valuable role in supporting rural development and is an important part of the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development. I am committed to implementing the LEADER programme as effectively as possible and to continuously monitoring progress in the delivery of the programme at all levels. In that regard, it became clear earlier this year that project promoters and Local Action Groups had specific concerns regarding the implementation of the programme, including the application process and associated criteria.
In light of those concerns, a forum was held in May with participants from all of the Local Action Groups and the Local Development Companies delivering LEADER. The forum provided a platform to review the operation of the LEADER programme, to explore the administrative issues impacting on project approvals, and to identify potential solutions to the issues identified.
Arising from the forum, my Department identified a series of 31 actions designed to improve programme delivery. Most of the measures have already been introduced, while the remainder are being progressed in collaboration with the Local Action Groups and their Implementing Partners where appropriate.
I am satisfied that these actions are far reaching and will result in very significant changes to the way the programme is delivered, making the application process easier for all concerned. I am regularly updated by my Department regarding the impact of the changes and the level of progress in approving projects under the programme. While the changes need to be given time to take full effect, I am pleased to note that there are now 429 projects approved for LEADER funding of almost €11 million, compared to projects with grant aid of less than €1 million in the first 6 months of the year.
Progress on the delivery of the LEADER Programme was discussed by the Monitoring Committee on the Action Plan for Rural Development at its meeting of 26 October. There was general agreement at that meeting that progress was being made in implementing the actions and that their full effect should be seen in the coming months.
Other mechanisms for reviewing the delivery of the LEADER programme include annual reporting to my Department by each Local Action Group on progress in the delivery of their Local Development Strategies. An evaluation of the LEADER Programme is also provided to the EU Commission each year as part of the Annual Implementation Report on the Rural Development Programme.