- Programme will bridge gap between EU LEADER programming periods
- Initial allocation of €20 million to support locally-led rural development
- Key focus on building capacity in communities
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, today (Wednesday, December 16th) announced details of the Transitional LEADER Programme which will come into effect in April 2021.
The Minister also announced some flexibilities in relation to the finalisation of the current LEADER programme.
In line with a commitment in the Programme for Government, the Transitional LEADER Programme will bridge a gap between the wind-up of the current 2014-2020 LEADER Programme and the start of the next EU programme, which is not likely to commence until 2023 due to delays at EU level.
The key features announced by the Minister are:
- An initial allocation of €20 million will be available under the Transitional Programme to cover both new projects and the administration costs of the Local Action Groups who deliver the programme.
- Funding for the Transitional Programme will be reviewed in 2021 when there is certainty regarding EU funding for the transitional period to 2023.
- Project approvals under the Transitional Programme will commence from 1st April 2021. However, Local Action Groups can work on identifying and animating potential projects from 1st January 2021.
- Funding will also be provided in 2021 to the Local Action Groups for the on-going management and delivery of projects still running under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme.
- A key focus of the Transitional Programme will be on building capacity within communities which have not received LEADER funding to date.
- The programme will also support job creation, foster and encourage entrepreneurship, and support projects which address the climate agenda, digital transformation and encourage rural communities to build on their existing strengths and assets.
- Under the Transitional Programme, the grant rate for enterprises and commercial projects will be increased from a maximum of 50% to a maximum of 75% to support enterprise development and job creation in rural areas.
- A new call for proposals under the LEADER Food Initiative, which supports new and existing artisan, micro and small food producers, will be announced in 2021.
- The deadline for commitments under the current LEADER programme will be extended to the end of March 2021 to facilitate the full allocation of funds available under that programme.
- Under the current programme, Local Action Groups will be allowed to recommit un-used funding due, for example, to underspends or projects not proceeding.
Announcing the details of the Transitional Programme, Minister Humphreys said:
“Since 1991, the LEADER Programme has played an important role in the development and enhancement of rural areas, by providing critical funding to rural economies, and supporting rural communities to implement a local-led ‘bottom-up’ approach to developing their own areas. With co-financing from the EU, LEADER has supported thousands of projects across Ireland. It has contributed to job creation, community development and environmental projects throughout the length and breadth of rural Ireland.
“There has been a delay at EU level in agreeing the framework for the next LEADER programme and it now looks likely that the next EU programme will not commence until 2023. This is an unprecedented and evolving situation, but my priority is to ensure that the LEADER model of locally-led community development is maintained without interruption, as committed to in the Programme for Government.
“I am therefore allocating an initial €20 million to the Transitional LEADER Programme to support new projects and the Administration costs of the Local Action Groups who will deliver the programme at local level.
“A new call for proposals under the LEADER Food Initiative will also be announced in 2021. This Initiative, which is jointly managed by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will support small food producers to address emerging challenges, such as responding to the impact of Brexit and developing markets for their products.
“In addition to administering the Transitional Programme, a further €7 million will be provided to the Local Action Groups in 2021 for the on-going management and delivery of projects still running under the 2014-2020 LEADER programme.”
The Department is writing to each of the Local Action Groups with a breakdown of their project and Administration allocations.
Minister Humphreys continued:
“I will review the funding situation for the Transitional Programme when Regulations governing the transitional period are signed at EU level and when there is clarity regarding EU funding for the transitional period. I expect that these issues will be finalised early next year.
“However, I am committed to ensuring that the Local Action Groups and their Implementing Partners will be supported to continue to deliver the Transitional Programme in 2022.”
Minister Humphreys concluded:
“The Transitional Programme has been finalised following engagement which my officials and I have had with the Local Authorities and the Local Development Companies who are central to the delivery of LEADER.
“The Transitional Programme will give local communities and enterprises an opportunity to respond to the emerging challenges for rural areas and to look ahead to issues that are likely to feature in the next EU programme. It will allow the Local Development Companies to build capacity within communities who have not received LEADER funding to date, while also facilitating preparations for the next LEADER programme.
“I am increasing the rate of aid that may be awarded to enterprises and commercial community projects, in line with a Programme for Government commitment, to help stimulate the rural economy and sustain jobs within rural Ireland, particularly in a post-COVID recovery scenario.
“Finally, I am responding to a number of requests to extend the timeline for project commitments under the current LEADER programme by extending the deadline for approvals from 31st December 2020, to 31st March 2021. The Transitional LEADER Programme will therefore commence on 1st April 2021 for the purposes of making new commitments under that programme. However, Local Action Groups can work on identifying and animating potential projects from 1st January 2021.”