THE CEO of Louth LEADER Partnership Mr John Butler has criticised the political spin put on last week’s funding announcement for partnership groups.
Mr Butler said the e7m funding announced last week for Louth LEADER Partnership simply amounts to the reduced budget which already exists. This budget had been frozen and is now re-instated. It is not new funding.
Under the Rural Development Programme, covering a period of five years, the overall budget for Louth Leader was e8.8m
The company had enough projects to cover all of that budget and were on target to spend all of that money by the end of 2014. Traditionally most of the money is spent in the final year.
In December 2012 the Department of Local Government’s IT system was closed for what was to be a two-week period running into early January 2013.
However this closure continued for three-and-a-half months and during this time no projects could be sanctioned by Louth Leader.
Now the system is up-and-running again and Louth Leader is operating on a budget e7.1m.
Mr Butler believes the Government has no interest in the future of partnership companies and would prefer to see the money go directly into local authorities.
“They want to channel the money into local authorities,” he said. “This is happening to most partnership companies in the country.
“The allocation announcements are a real spin.
“Staff working with Louth LEADER Partnership and other partnership companies are being asked to get projects into the system and yet this same staff could be facing redundancy.
“Some partnerships did get more funding but the majority did not.
“I would be asking local Oireachtas members and councillors to do what they can to get this funding restored,” he said.
The problem in Louth is compounded by the fact that Dundalk does not benefit from the EU matched funding because it is a Gateway Town.
Yet the Gateway Town project is a shambles. Dundalk is at the bottom of the list and there is no money for the Gateway project anyhow.
Louth LEADER Partnership runs programmes under several headings: Local Employment Service; Job Club; Local Community Development Programme; Rural Development Programme; Rural Transport Programme; Rural Walk Scheme; Rural Social Scheme; TUS (they have 200 people employed in the community).
Over 50 people are employed by Louth LEADER Partnership.
The company has funded community centres throughout the county.
It has also helped Tidy Towns groups, numerous business projects and community festivals including the Annagassan Viking Festival.
It also financed the Viking archeology dig at Annagassan.