Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has stated the latest information released and collated by various Dáil questions on key rural schemes shows how this Fine Gael led government is failing miserably to deliver for rural Ireland.
The level of underspend is shocking, with millions left unspent and when you consider how much of a difference this funding could make in our rural communities, it is then you realise that this Government simply does not understand rural Ireland, he claims.
Pat the Cope stated "the latest parliamentary question replies show €270m is unspent on vitally important rural schemes administered by the Department of Rural and Community Development at the end of August. These include the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme; Town & Village Renewal scheme; CLÁR, the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS), the Rural Regeneration fund and LEADER".
"Taking funds allocated to key rural improvement schemes over the period 2017-2019 there is an unspent balance of €111m alone. In the region of €56m still remains on departmental funds allocated to the Town & Village Renewal scheme and the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme going back two years added Pat the Cope.
"Yet, the numbers get worse. The much-heralded Rural Regeneration fund was launched 14 months ago with €52m allocated for 2019. To date, just €4.1m in project funding released by the Department, representing an underspend of 92%. This type of funding would be urgently required in many areas throughout Donegal added Pat the Cope.
"There are just 16 months remaining in the current 2014-2020 LEADER programme which is a key Rural Development Programme. However, despite €250m allocated to the seven-year programme, €159m remains unspent or 72% of total funds.
"It is regrettable that funding on the levels such as these schemes, cannot be properly spent in a well-planned and timely fashion, what we will witness now is a rush to spend money and to commit the funding, which will lead to poor planning in some cases and a greater chance of the funding being wasted," added Deputy Gallagher.
"This Government is just not capable of delivering a programme that provide the necessary funding and improvement that are urgently required in our rural communities, they are excellent at making big headline announcements’ but the after implementation of the programmes simply falls flat. This is due to a proactive and meaningful implementation strategy, or perhaps they just never release the funding for rural areas added Pat the Cope.
"This massive underspend is a bitter indictment of Fine Gael’s stewardship of the Rural Department and key schemes to fund capital infrastructural projects in rural communities. This is atrocious oversight, worse record ever for actual delivery of rural programmes but then again they are a Government of spin over substance.
"Rural communities have lost confidence in Fine Gael’s ability to govern competently as seen by the maladministration of these rural schemes. No spin can cloud over how Rural Ireland is being short changed €270million and counties such as Donegal should be immediately prioritised as the category most in need of these funding programmes that currently have an unspent balance," the Donegal TD concluded.
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