SIR – I welcome the decision of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to confirm the appointment of the Cork County Council’s West Cork Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) as the body which will manage the LEADER elements of the EU Rural Development Programme to 2020.
An Independent Selection Committee was established to evaluate the quality of local development strategies submitted. This Committee decided that the West Cork LCDC’s strategy was the best strategy for West Cork.
This was subsequently appealed by West Cork Development Partnership. An independent third party was then appointed to specifically consider the appeal – this third party reviewed the appeal and re-affirmed the original decision. This now removes any uncertainty around the programme delivery and the West Cork LCDC, which is fully funded and supported by Cork County Council, will move swiftly to advance the programme for the benefit of West Cork under the branded title of ‘LEADER West Cork.’
In bringing the matter to finality, it is important for the various communities of West Cork to recognise the significant benefits that will emerge from the incorporation of the LEADER Programme into the operations of the Council.
The role of local government – and that of Cork County Council – in community, enterprise and rural development has expanded significantly over the past number of years with the introduction of its Municipal Districts and Local Community Development Committees.
The value of working in partnership with the Council was recognised clearly by five of the six existing local development companies in the county that operated the LEADER programme up to now. However, the position adopted by the board of directors and executive team of West Cork Development Partnership would appear to have not recognised the changing face of local community activation, where the synergies that arise from co-operative and collaborative action ensure maximisation of resource utilisation and impacts for all communities we serve.
The new round of LEADER funding available to the state from the EU has unfortunately been significantly reduced, the allocation to Cork County reducing from €49m to €13.9m. The forging of new collaborative partnerships with the former local development companies who operated LEADER was therefore of even greater importance, considering the significant level of funding that Cork County Council itself has committed to community, town and village and rural development over the life of the current elected Council.
At an early stage, the County Council agreed to supplement the LEADER funding by an additional €3.5m where the LCDCs would be the implementing body. Through the Municipal Districts’ funding mechanisms of General Municipal Allocations, Town Development Funds, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the reinvestment of pay parking profits, a further €26m of the Councils own funds, supported through the Local Property Tax, will be invested in these areas, directly impacting positively on local communities.
In addition, the spend through the Council’s two Local Enterprise Offices over the life of this Council will see a further €10m invested in supporting small and medium enterprise start ups and development. Delivering the LEADER programme within this environment and in a manner which can bring inevitable synergies and co-ordination of activity between the Council, through its three LCDC’s, and existing Local Development Companies can only be for the betterment of our communities, both urban and rural.
It is clear that the impact of Cork County Council is significant and goes much further than the LEADER funding available to the county, thus emphasising the importance of newly-formed collaborative approaches to local community and rural development. There is no room for independent operations when it comes to supporting communities and, the proactive approach of those local development companies – Avondhu Blackwater, Ballyhoura, Comhar na nOileain, IRD Duhallow, South and East Cork Area Development (SECAD) – to work with the Council under the new LEADER arrangements is to be commended.
Specifically with regard to West Cork, the arrangements in place for the delivery of the LEADER programme under the remit of the Council’s LCDC, and those companies that have partnered with us, will ensure that the approach will be highly professional and participative, mirroring the work to date in developing the Local Development Strategy for the region which was the cornerstone of the successful bid to run the LEADER programme.
Cork County Council is at the heart of your community and this new partnership approach for the delivery of LEADER across the entire county will ensure that all our efforts are co-ordinated and focused on maximising the impact of the programme.”
Cork County Council,