The Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) have noted the €4million increase in LEADER funding for 2021 announced by the Minister for Social Protection, Community & Rural Development Heather Humphreys and the Minister for Community Development & Charities Joe O’Brien. The increase brings total funding under LEADER to €44million delivered by 35 of ILDN’s Local Development Company (LDC) members.

The increase in LEADER funding for 2021 is significant and necessary to meet commitments entered into under the scheme.  Clarity is needed however as to whether the allocation allows for new commitments to be entered into in 2021. 35 of ILDN’s 49 members deliver LEADER across rural Ireland and depend on the programme to maintain their services. The 2021 Budget allocation offers some reassurance that these programmes and services can continue to function after December 31st, 2020 when the current LEADER programme ends.

Budget 2021 has not however addressed the LEADER cliff edge and did not deliver a two-year National Rural Development Programme to bridge the gap to the next LEADER Programme in 2022.  There remains a great deal of anxiety in rural areas in terms of the future of the LEADER programme and the important services provided by ILDN member LDC’s in every rural community in the country.  Furthermore, no progress has been made on the Programme for Government commitment to deliver a state-led Rural Development Programme led by independent Local Action Groups.

Delivering €330 million worth of State programmes annually, ILDN members require a sustainable funding model to ensure continuity of service in the areas of social inclusion, labour activation, rural development and climate action. Budget 2021 was a missed opportunity to put in place an appropriate funding model to meet the commitment in the five year ‘Sustainable, Inclusive, & Empowered Communities Strategy’.