Yesterday, I questioned Minister of State, Joe O’Brien on a constant issue being raised by the Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural & Community Affairs, & the Islands, and that is transitional funding for LEADER Companies across the country
The Minister confirmed the imminent announcement of an additional €4m LEADER funding on top of €40m already committed which will include provision for new projects, as well as maintaining the administration operations of LEADER Companies.
But will this be enough?
I was quite concerned last month when Minister Humphreys told our committee that the €40m in money already committed for 2021 could not be allocated to new projects.
Why was I concerned?
Because this time last year the then Minister Michael Ring allocated €5m to just 10 of the 29 LEADER Companies across the Country, that money was to be spent be within a 12 month period: (https://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases/Minister_Ring_allocates_additional_€5_million_for_top_ten_performing_LEADER_Local_Action_Groups.html )
So, 10 companies where getting €5m to spend within a year yet now we are expecting 29 LEADER Companies to survive on a €4m commitment for up to 2.5 years. This would have been wholly insufficient to meet the needs of LEADER Companies.
However, this approach has now shifted and from Minister O’Brien’s reply yesterday, there can be an allocation of funding to new projects in 2021 not just from the €4m but also from the €40m already committed for next year.
This is positive IF it is followed through in the formal announcement.
And we need to see this announcement urgently because there are just 6 weeks to go until the end of the year and the LEADER Companies still don’t know their funding allocations for 2021.
This is a point that will be discussed by our Oireachtas Committee at its meeting next Monday morning.