Call to meet Minister over SWARD spend

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COOKSTOWN District councillors have called for a meeting to be held with Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill MLA, to discuss the level of spend within the South West Action for Rural Development (SWARD) programme.

Recently, a meeting of a council sub-committee was told that the SWARD grouping had the highest expenditure out of all five clusters in Northern Ireland.

The meeting was told a letter had been received in December by the South West Local Action Group and the Rural Development Programme Joint Council Committee with regard to this matter. The letter and its potential implications were considered by the Lead Council in early January, and further discussed at the Rural Development Programme Joint Council Committee Meeting held on January 14.

The council’s Acting Chief Executive further advised that he had convened a meeting on January 17 with the Chief Executives of the three Local Councils who form the SWARD Cluster with Cookstown District Council.

Councillor McGarvey highlighted the seriousness of the situation and advised that the budget for administration needs to be decoupled from the SWARD programme budget.

As well as calling for a meeting with the Agriculture Minister, members agreed that invitations to attend be also sent to the Chair and Vice-Chair of the South West Local Action Group and Rural Development Programme Joint Council Committee, and the Chief Executives from each of the four Councils which form the SWARD Cluster namely Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough and Cookstown.