Published: 08:45, 21 January 2020
Rural firms are being reminded there is still time to tap into a multi-million pound funding pot before it is wound down.
Kent County Council's Leader Programme will close at the end of this year after five years of investment during which time it has provided more than £5million for rural businesses and communities.
It has created more than 200 jobs and supported more than 100 projects.
These projects have ranged from farm diversification programmes, new business start-ups, business expansion and community infrastructure provision.
The East Kent, Kent Downs and Marshes and West Kent Leader areas are part of the Rural Development Programme for England with is part-funded by the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the European Union.
To qualify for grants, bosses, entrepreneurs and community groups need to propose a project that will make a difference to the running of their business and their immediate rural community.
KCC is the accountable body for the East Kent and Kent Downs and Marshes Leader areas for which, due to the popularity of the scheme, there are only limited funds remaining.
Mike Whiting, KCC’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “ The Leader Programme has delivered tremendous success and has made a real difference in the land based sector and the wider rural economy over the last five years, assisting a diverse range of rural businesses to grow and expand and take advantage of the growth in popularity of local produce especially.
“In addition, this bottom-up approach to rural economic development has assisted community projects like village shops and village halls with their creation and development, helping to underpin the rural economy in general through the provision of wider rural services.”
Leader is a French acronym which roughly translates as 'Liaison among Actors in Rural Economic Development'.
The money is locally controlled, with decisions about which projects are funded being made by the Local Action Group (LAG) for the Leader area.
The LAG is made up of local private, public and civil society representatives. Each LAG develops a Local Development Strategy (LDS) for its given area and this describes what the LAG aims to achieve based on locally identified priorities and actions.
The LAG has delegated powers to bring forward, assess and fund projects in line with their LDS objectives, and address local priorities through planning and implementing their LDS.
Leader can provide grant investment between £2,500 and £50,000.
Grants above this amount will be considered if, in the LAG’s opinion "a project demonstrates excellent value for money and will significantly over deliver on outputs ie. jobs and growth".
Each LAG will deliver 70% of project funding directly in support of jobs and growth in the rural economy.
Businesses or communities that could benefit from investment and feel they have a project that would help them grow should contact Huw Jarvis on 03000 417 104 (email@example.com) or visit www.leaderprogrammekent.org for Kent Downs and Marshes and East Kent Leader.
'The Leader Programme has delivered tremendous success and has made a real difference in the land based sector and the wider rural economy over the last five years,' - Mike Whiting, KCC
For west Kent, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss projects.