Rural Communities: Funding Programmes

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP 3:00 pm, 12th October 2020

6. Mr K Buchanan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what funding programmes are in place to assist rural communities. (AQO 868/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My Department currently supports a range of funding programmes that assist rural communities. This year, the Northern Ireland rural development programme 2014-2020 funded LEADER and rural tourism schemes that will make available £11 million to support investment in rural businesses, villages and basic services. The Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme will provide £10 million, this year, across 20 initiatives that aim to tackle social isolation, access and financial poverty, as well as support COVID-19 recovery in rural communities. A further £2·5 million is available to support pilot projects that address rural issues emerging from the draft rural policy framework and the need to respond to COVID-19. DAERA also continues to monitor and support the implementation of the Rural Needs Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 by Departments, public bodies and councils. It provides an effective mechanism in supporting the delivery of positive and meaningful benefits for rural dwellers.

Photo of Keith Buchanan Keith Buchanan DUP 3:15 pm, 12th October 2020

I thank the Minister for his answer. For some of the programmes, the process can be awfully complex and difficult, which in some cases it needs to be. Will he look into what he can do to remove the red tape, which can cause fairly long delays in getting funding from some of those programmes?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My officials have reviewed some of the processes around the current programme and have started to revise certain procedures to reduce red tape and make the application process more efficient, within the context of 'Managing Public Money' and the audit responsibilities that come with that. It is something that I continue to drive home to them. There is a necessity to make things as practical as possible so that people can provide all the information that needs to be provided, without wading through 40 pages of documentation, in order to draw down relatively small amounts of money in some instances.

Photo of Emma Sheerin Emma Sheerin Sinn Féin

As a consequence of Brexit, we are losing the rural development programme that you mentioned. What has the Department planned to replace it, and how will it be funded, given that the substantial bulk of its funding came from the EU?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The funding that you refer to will be replacement funding directly from the UK Government. That will be the source of future funding for rural communities.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I call Trevor Clarke. You may not get a supplementary question, Trevor.