Deputy Niall Collins
IN 2016, County Limerick was allocated over €9m in the new round of Leader programme funding which will run until 2020.
To date, not a cent has been paid out in the county, Deptuy Niall Collins has revealed. The Leader programme to support rural development is administered by two local groups – Ballyhoura and West Limerick Resources.
Deputy Collins said the fact that zero has been paid out in County Limerick is a “shocking statistic”.
“Community projects across the country are losing out as a result of delays in the roll out of the scheme,” said Deputy Collins, who hit out at all the “red tape, bureaucracy and administration involved” in the process.
“We were against the changes to Leader which made the process extremely cumbersome. This has only served to delay monies being given out and frustrate deserving community projects,” said Deputy Collins.
Ballyhoura chairman, Aidan Gleeson said there is no fear of the €9,276,593 not being spent in County Limerick but says it is “very slow and red tape-heavy”.
“There is a different system there now. There was an awful lot of change to the old Leader. The old way was you applied for funding, that was assessed and you got the go-ahead to spend the money. When the money was spent the grant was transferred to you when you proved everything.
“The new system, which came in under Putting People First, changed the whole system. Everyone applies, then you have to go through I think it is 13 different steps in the application process. Then when all those projects have gone through all those steps, then they were assessed in a bunch in a closed call,” said Mr Gleeson, who explains that a closed call is when there is a closing date.
“Everyone applied at the same time, they're assessed against one another and ranked from the most suitable to the least suitable. So that’s where all the steps in the process come,” said Mr Gleeson, who adds that that process has been completed.
“The West Limerick Resources projects were approved at the February meeting of the Council and the Ballyhoura projects are being put forward for approval at the March meeting,” he said.
Mr Gleeson said Deputy Collins is right, “you have to jump through all the hoops ahead of time”.
“You can see the frustration there. The delays are not helpful for the promoters and the communities. They are ready to go and they are waiting and waiting. That is the system that was designed and that is the system we are working in. We have to do our best to get as many people approved and get the money spent as soon as possible,” he concluded.