59 per cent of Leader funding spent to date

AgriLand understands that to date 59 per cent of funding for Leader programmes has been spent. This represents €175m under axes three and four of the current programme.

Speaking recently Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan said: “The total project spend under axes three and four of the programme is currently €175m, which represents 59 per cent of the estimated project funding available. In addition, I anticipate that up to a further €8m will be spent on projects before the end of 2013. The LDCs also administer a food measure under axis one of the programme. To date almost €2.2m has been committed under this measure with expenditure of €318,172.”

According to the minister: “During 2011, the European Commission approved a change in the maximum co-funding rate from 55 per cent to 85 per cent in respect of Leader. This has had the effect of reducing overall funding available under the programme.”

The overall value of the Leader elements of the current Rural Development Programme is €370m. Of that up to 20 per cent can be spent on administration, leaving a minimum of €296m available for projects and animation activities. Several local development companies have indicated that they will spend less than the 20 per cent allowed under the regulations for administration and this money can be diverted into funding for projects.

It is understood that to date €285.5m has been committed with a further 30 projects to the value of €9.1m still under assessment.

The minister commented: “My department is in ongoing contact with the relevant development companies to resolve outstanding issues as quickly as possible. These issues can be procurement or planning or whatever. I expect that this process will be finalised in the coming weeks. In addition, projects to the value of €1.8m are currently under appeal.”

EU regulations allow expenditure to be continued under the programme up to the end of 2015.

However the minister noted: “I anticipate that most local development companies will complete their expenditure before the end of 2014, with a small number completing them in early 2015.”

He said “The department has been in a position to carry over significant amounts of unspent money into the following year and the same will happen on this occasion. Leader spending has increased each year since 2009 and I anticipate that in the order of €50m will become available to carry forward in 2014 to fund Leader projects.”