Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil Deputy, Robert Troy, has described the new LEADER programme as an absolute shambles and a bureaucratic nightmare.
The latest scheme was launched in 2014, but almost three and a half years later there has been no project expenditure to date.
“It is almost inconceivable that no money has been spent on approved LEADER projects more than three and a half years after the new programme was rolled out,” Deputy Troy commented. “It’s a damning indictment of the Department and the completely ineffective way that it’s being run.
“Despite the fact that a substantial amount of money has been provided for LEADER this year, I’m led to believe that only a fraction of that funding will actually be spent on projects this year, as it usually takes a number of months for this money to be drawn down once it’s approved.
“The new LEADER programme is an absolute shambles and a bureaucratic nightmare. There are up to 18 stages involved in the assessment process as well as endless red tape as the European Union, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pobal, LDCs and local groups are all involved in the approval process, even for very small grants.”
Deputy Troy says Minister Humphreys needs to completely overhaul the LEADER programme structure to ensure that all of the money can be spent expeditiously and that the unnecessary layers of bureaucracy can be removed.
“LEADER was designed to be a community programme, but it has been allowed to become dominated by red tape rather than tangible action,” he said. “The whole approach to LEADER is symptomatic of this Government, which prefers spin to substance. I will be continuing to press this issue with Minister Humphreys to ensure that LEADER companies are given the opportunity to do the job they were appointed to do and continue to improve development in rural Ireland.”