'Use it or lose it' warning over funding pot for rural development
Groups that seek and oversee millions of euro in funding for rural communities have been told they must 'use it or lose it'.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has warned money allocated to under-performing areas will be re-distributed.
The Leader Programme sees funding provided to Local Action Groups (LAGs) to support community amenities and businesses in rural towns.
However, there is a large divergence between areas such as Co Kerry and Co Mayo, deemed to be performing well, and places such as Co Kildare, Galway East and Co Longford, where there are lower rates of funding allocations approved and drawn down.
Mr Ring said the LAGs have had budgets assigned to them to support initiatives in communities.
"This money needs to be put to use but unfortunately some groups are well behind in approving projects," he said. "It's my job to ensure that Leader delivers for rural communities and I'm not prepared to stand over long delays in the allocation of funds."
He said he has asked officials to engage with the LAGs and wants to see them deliver on their commitments.
Mayo TD Mr Ring warned: "Certain groups need to substantially increase their project approvals in the coming months. If I'm not satisfied that the necessary progress is being made I will redistribute funds to groups which are more likely to put them to use."
The department carried out an assessment of the LAGs' performance based on the level of funding they had approved and how much was actually drawn down.
The 10 best performing areas have been offered an additional €500,000 each.
The LAGs which are to get the extra funds are Co Kerry, Co Mayo, Co Waterford, Co Limerick, Cork North, Co Donegal, Co Tipperary, Co Offaly, Co Leitrim and Co Cavan.
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