Clarity sought on LEADER funding time-lag in Leitrim

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

Clarity sought on LEADER funding time-lag in Leitrim

Leitrim County Councillors have expressed concern over the length of time it is taking to approve funding under the current LEADER programme.
Changes put in place following the end of the previous LEADER programme have “complicated” the application process say councillors and, when you add in the number of stages now involved in processing each application, it is unsurprising that it is taking much longer to get approval this time round.
At the recent Council meeting, Cllr Sinead Guckian asked for clarity on the current position in regard to applications, processing and the expected timeframe for completion for LEADER in Leitrim.
Acting Chief Executive of Leitrim County Council, Joseph Gilhooly, acknowledged that, since the current LEADER programme opened last year, a significant amount of applications have been made through targeted call-outs.
This has meant a lot of the work - spread out over the entire length of the previous programme - is being condensed into shorter periods.
Describing the time scales as “cumbersome”, Mr Gilhooly assured councillors the process will be helped going forward, by a relaxation of the application rules.
While last year people had to apply for different funding streams under LEADER during strict time frames, this has been relaxed to allow an open call for applications.
“We are still working through the outcome of these targeted calls (from last year),” admitted Mr Gilhooly.
“But, with changes in legislation this has been changed from targeted calls to a single call now. So going forward (LEADER) will progress on a much more fluid basis.”
Unlike the previous LEADER programme applicants to date have had to pass an 'expression of interest' stage and, in some instances, involved the completion of a procurement process - an additional burden smaller community groups found difficult to finance.
Even when these steps are completed projects still have to go to a valuation committee who assess whether the project is viable if it goes forward for approval.
Cllr Sinead Guckian said the costs of applying are quite substantial adding: “It is also very hard to keep your community enthusiastic about projects when it is taking so long and there is so little progress so far.
“My understanding is that we are also way oversubscribed for this funding and I find that very worrying.”
Cllr Sean McDermott also expressed concern over the length of time it is taking to allocate funds.
“I know we are also working with a lot less money under the current LEADER but I think it is very important that, particularly in rural parts of Leitrim, we see projects happen as soon as possible,” he said.
Mr Gilhooly accepted two of the funding measures opened for applications last year are “well over-subscribed”.
“We are trying to keep as many projects alive as we can,” he stressed.