Irwin concerned with Rural Development Programme ‘under spend’

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Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

William Irwin MLA (left) has spoken of his concern

Newry & Armagh DUP Assembly man and Stormont Agriculture committee member William Irwin MLA has spoken of his concern at the mounting under spend which exists under Axis 3.1 and 3.2 of the Rural Development Programme. Mr Irwin believes that given the requirement for applicants to match fund any application to the tune of 50% is having a negative effect on the success of applications and the number of applications being submitted. The DUP man believes the rate of grant needs to be much higher to encourage greater uptake in the scheme. Mr Irwin feels a higher level of assistance would be much more appealing to banks who ultimately have to release funding to applicants to meet the match funding requirement. Mr Irwin stated, “As a LAG member in the SOAR cluster I am becoming increasingly concerned at the level of under spend and the amount of applicants that are pulling out of the programme due to the fact that they cannot secure the 50% match funding. It is clear that banks are not willing to release that level of funding for many of the projects we see coming to the LAGs.” He added, “This is ultimately having a massive effect on how the scheme is performing across Northern Ireland and when I look at other regions operating this scheme, where match funding limits seem to have greater flexibility, it is easy to see why in Northern Ireland, under our current funding arrangements, an under spend exists. “This is something that I have discussed locally in my own RDP cluster and I feel the onus is on the Minister for Agriculture to step up to the mark and take stock of the current failings within the system and make the necessary changes in light of the economic realities of stringent lending by the banks.” He concluded: “This scheme is meant to assist in rural development, however given the 50/50 nature of the funding it is clearly not working in this challenging economic environment. “I would ask the minister to look to other regions to compare and contrast and put the case forward to adjust the funding balance to encourage greater uptake – our rural economy depends on it.”
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