Limerick community projects under threat over LEADER fund deadlines

Seven large-scale, community-based projects in West Limerick could miss out

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Limerick community projects under threat over LEADER fund deadlines

Cllr John Sheahan said that many groups could miss that deadline

UP to seven large-scale, community-based projects in West Limerick could miss out because of red tape and an inflexible deadline, local councillors have warned.

And attempts to extend the deadline to give them a chance have failed. 

The projects involved are all seeking funding under the LEADER programme and the deadline for “expressions of interest” was originally fixed at July 31.

But Cllrs Eddie Ryan FF and John Sheahan FG say that many groups could now miss that deadline as they struggle with planning permission, with procurement procedures and with charitable status.

An attempt, led by Cllr Ryan, to have the July deadline extended failed at a meeting of the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC),  with only two votes in favour, seven against and two abstentions.

“We are dealing with seven projects in West Limerick that needed more time and I personally know of at least three in East Limerick,” said Cllr Ryan, who is chairman of the LCDC which set the original deadline and who lobbied to have it extended.

Extending  the deadline by six weeks was reasonable, Cllr Ryan said this week, particularly in light of the fact that the whole programme was running behind by over two years. Getting expressions of interest ready, he added, was very, very difficult and complex.

Procurement, i.e. getting three quotes in on time,  is particularly difficult where projects are still waiting for planning permission. And this new tranche of LEADER funding, according to those in the know, comes with a host of new and bureacratic regulations. 

Now, both Cllr Sheahan and Cllrs Ryan are concerned that without the chance of LEADER funding, the much-needed projects will fall by the wayside entirely.

As things stand, the expressions of interest deadline is only the first hurdle projects have to overcome. Each project must be evaluated separately by an independent committee and only those that receive an overall rating of 65% plus go forward for a funding decision.

“We should be prioritising on a project’s importance to the community rather than making deadlines,” Cllr Sheahan said.

And he was concerned that red tape was jeopardising the ability of LEADER companies such as West Limerick Resources and Ballyhoura to be act as development companies.

He intends to raise the matter of the deadline at the next meeting of Limerick City and County Council.

A spokesman for the council said the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) “ is playing a key role in the development of a six-year Local Economic and Community Plan for the city and county.”

“Calls for funding were made in January with a deadline of July.  

“In order for Limerick to secure the maximum funding of programmes possible, outline plans must be submitted by this date,” he added.