LEADER funding is part of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and within that comes under the Rural Development programme. The British Government prepares programmes of work and bids for funding under the CAP in each budget cycle.
'LEADER' is an acronym of the French ‘Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l'Economie Rurale',which translates as‘Links between actions of rural development’. As its name suggests, it is a method of mobilising and delivering rural development in local rural communities, rather than a fixed set of measures to be implemented. Experience has shown that Leader can make a real difference to the daily lives of people in rural areas. It can play an important role in encouraging innovative responses to old and new rural problems, and becomes a sort of ‘laboratory’for building local capabilities and for testing out new ways of meeting the needs of rural communities. It has generated valuable results in many rural areas in Member States, and could play a significant role in assisting rural areas in new and future EU Member States to adapt to today’s changing realities.
Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities in the EU with the tools to play an active role in shaping their own future. It has evolved over time, together with the rest of the CAP. Information from evaluations and rural stakeholders indicates that the LEADER approach is a tool that works well, in quite different situations and types of areas, thus adapting rural policy-making to the extreme diversity of rural areas’needs. For these reasons it has now become an integral part of rural development policy. By encouraging local participation in the drawing up and implementation of sustainable development strategies, the LEADER approach is a precious resourcefor future rural policy.