Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Regional, Rural, Gaeltacht & Island Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív is warning that the Department of Rural & Community Development is heading for a crisis as a result of chronic underspending.

Department spending is running 30% behind profile, with only €28m out of the €95m capital budget spent so far this year.

Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “Minister Ring has been presiding over a substantial departmental underspend since he took office, and unfortunately very little progress is being made.  Underspends in key programmes like LEADER and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme are having a major impact on the ability of rural communities to grow.

“I have raised this issue time and again with the Minister, and unfortunately I am not confident that all of the money which has been made available to him for rural projects will be spent by the end of the year.  At the end of September only €28m out of the €95m allocated has been spent – that’s less than 30% of the allocated funding.

“The situation in relation to the LEADER Programme must be urgently addressed.  Once administration expenses are taken out of the equation, only €6m of the €30m available for capital expenditure has been spent.  It is becoming more obvious by the day that there is going to be a huge underspend in this programme. It is also worth noting that despite an allocation of €10m under the Local Improvement Scheme, not one cent has been spent.

“I have written to the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Rural & Community Development asking him to invite Minister Ring before the Committee to explain the current underspend and what measures he intends to take to ensure that we do not have a repeat of last year, whereby money was handed back to the exchequer.  I would like to thank the Chair for acceding to this request and I look forward to hearing from the Minister at the end of the month”.