More than €6 million in grants available to help rural communities and businesses in Laois has not been spent in a six-year programme according to local TD Fiona O’Loughlin.
The Fianna Fáil TD was critical of the reasons why the Leader Fund money has not been spent.
“Laois was allocated €7,124,587 in the LEADER funding and a mere 14% was allocated by the end of 2018. To see €1,017,114 of funding being received in Laois as part of the LEADER funding is extremely disappointing when we know there is a lot more allocated for Laois," she said.
Dep O'Loughlin said the Minister for Rural Development, Michael Ring commented in the summer of 2018 that he would undertake a review of the programme. She said his department has acknowledged significant underspending of the programme due to the length of time it is taking for projects to be signed off.
“This review must be completed with urgency given the length of delays already occurred for the funding to be allocated,” she said.
Laois Partnership (Laois Community and Enterprise Development Company) administers funding to Laois applicants. Its chairman Peter O'Neill.
"There are presently €900,000 in projects approved and allocated with promoters ready to draw down. Laois have no problem of never had a problem in spending its allocation and in fact took up extra funding in the last programme that was unspent in other regions. We pride ourselves on funding quality sustainable projects over the term of the programme," he said.
LEADER is a multi-annual programme with a total budget of €250 million over the period 2014-2020. Of this funding, €220 million has been allocated to the Local Action Groups (LAGs) throughout the country who deliver the LEADER programme. This funding is allocated to the LAGs for the full period of the programme.
The LEADER (2014-2020) Programme is 63% funded by the EU and 37% by the Irish exchequer.
Applicants must in most cases provide some matching funds toward the cost of a project.
Dep O'Loughlin is a TD for South Kildare which takes in Portarlington at the next General Election.