JUST two community groups in West Cork have been successful in their bid to avail of Leader funding since the new grant administration system began in 2016.
The West Cork Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) comprises elected public representatives, along with private sector, local and community development representatives, in conjunction with the Leader West Cork Local Action Group (LAG).
LAG is made up of officials from Cork County Council and representatives from the three administrating development companies – Secad based in Midleton East Cork, the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership headquartered in Castlestownroche (North Cork) and Comhar na nOileain, located on the Aran Islands. Former administrators of the scheme, WCDP, is based in Clonakilty and had been in charge of the funding for West Cork for over 10 years.
At a meeting of Cork County Council’s Western Committee recently, councillors expressed their frustration at what many community groups have called a ‘slow and overly bureaucratic’ system.
‘I am very unhappy with the way the Leader funding is working out here in West Cork,’ Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said.
‘The levels of bureaucracy and red tape involved in just making an application are not helping.
‘And I am speaking about a certain group in my area that has had to travel up and down to Midleton several times in order to get their application sorted, and after all that they were refused. I have to ask where was the wisdom in going away from a local company and giving responsibility for Leader funding to an agency in East Cork?’
Kay Keegan, chief officer, West Cork LCDC, said that she admits that the new administration has taken time to get off the ground but they are now up and running.
In her report to the Western Committee Ms Keegan said that just over €5m was allocated to West Cork in Leader funding for the period 2016-2020.
‘To the end of December 2017, 173 projects to a value of €6.32m are at the expression of interest stage,’ Ms Keegan said. ‘To date, two projects in West Cork, the Friends of Innishannon Ltd for the development of the Innishannon palyground, and the Dunmanway Community Council, for the erection street names, have been awarded grants to the value of €129,990.45.’ This represents 2.6% of the total funds available, she said.
The successful projects were developed with the Avondhu Blackwater Partnership, while another five projects in conjunction with Secad, worth €200,279.26, were approved by West Cork LAG at a meeting in December 2017.
A list of the successful projects is not available at this time, as, according to Secad, the contracts have yet to signed.
However, to date there have been no projects allocated funding in conjunction with Comhar na nOileain, a situation that has left many community groups based on the West Cork peninsulas and islands with the prospect of cancelling community improvements and projects.
‘There are a lot of community groups out there that are very unhappy with the LCDC,’ Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said. ‘This Leader funding means a lot to these groups and I hope that the new system can get on with the work of helping, rather than just putting more and more obstacles in place.’
Cllr Pat Murphy (FF) said that the amount of paperwork now needed to access Leader funding was daunting.
‘You have community groups, all volunteers, who are faced with this mountain of red tape and bureaucracy for relatively small sums of money,’ Cllr Murphy said.
Councillors also called for an extension to the deadline for allocating the remaining Leader 2016-2020 funding.