Well- happily here we go again! “Again” as this is the fifth multi-annual LEADER programme that Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) has delivered since the dawn of the then radical new initiative in 1991. “Happily”, because KLP was delighted to see its Local Development Strategy win the highly contested right to be the designated ‘local action group’ deliver LEADER in the 2014 to 2020. This win came in a competitive process, where the government made clear its support for the alternative local-government backed application.
Which all goes towards saying that since KLP signed its new LEADER contract with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs as a ‘local action group’ on the 8th of July, and following a crowded public information meeting later that month, KLP has been busy preparing to accept its first project applications. As I write over 40 ‘expression of interest’ (EOI) forms- the initial stage of the application process, have been submitted to KLP. These will be tested for eligibility and consistency with the LEADER rules and KLP published plan at its Board meeting on the 1st of September.
The value of the grant element of those forms is astonishingly close to €3 million! KLP only €5.8 million in project grant funding for the entire programme. The EOI influx is obvious evidence of the pent up demand for LEADER support that began when the previous programme closed for applications in mid-2013. But equally clearly KLP can hardly allocate almost half of it five-year budget in the first months of the new programme. So, in the vernacular- it’ll be a loaves and fishes’ job for the hard-working voluntary Evaluation Committee and the similarly unrecompensed Board of the Company.
But nobody in KLP is complaining. We hope that we can once again show our mettle in the efficient and effective disbursement of grant aid and other supports and place Kilkenny in the front rank of the queue for the additional ‘LEADER funding’ hinted at by many of the national political parties. We also plan to make full use of the opportunities that arise from the various centralised national funds that are available to LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs) be they ‘inter-region cooperation’ across county boundaries, food or other initiatives that require partnerships between LAGs.
This brings me to a point I cannot ignore. Some you may have noticed that this is the first blog I have posted on our site in quite a while- and it would be too coy not to mention the most note-worthy item to have happened to KLP since I last posted a blog in November 2012 is that the Company emerged from the so-called ‘alignment process’ as one of only three remaining ‘independent LAGs’ remaining outside of effective local-authority control in the state. The other survivors are Clare Local Development Company and FORUM Connemara. In the case of the only other territory where there was a competitive process, West Cork Development Partnership the existing LAG with the highest ranked application in the previous LEADER programme is currently appealing a decision of the Government’s ‘Independent Evaluation Committee’ to award the LAG status to the new local authority-led Local Community Development Committee in that part of the county. So, as I said at the start of this post- here we go again…