Rural groups slam Minister's plan for revamped LEADER
GOVERNMENT proposals to give the country's local authorities more control over rural development programmes have been condemned as a political "smash and grab" exercise by local politicians and community development organisations.
Announcing €250m in new funding last week for the LEADER element of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he was pursuing "enhanced alignment" between local government and local development.
"It is absolutely critical that greater efficiencies and operational savings are achieved in the delivery of the new Programme, so that we minimise administration costs and maximise the funding available to support projects and local communities," said Minister Hogan.
The Department's drive for "greater efficiencies" will include a review of the operations of the country's 50 Local Development Companies (LDCs), which have been the focus of criticism following the Department's release of figures on the LDC administration costs, including chief executive salaries.
Published last week, the figures revealed that the LDCs received €50m in state funding in 2013, with €11m of this spent on staff and administration costs.
Chief executive salaries at the LDCs ranged from a low of €48,000 (Comhar na nOilean, Aran Islands) to €102,000 (Carlow County Development Ltd).
The Department's review will involve establishing new Local Action Groups – "comprising representatives of public and private local socio-economic interests" – to administer the LEADER programme.