Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group (NULAG) – LEADER
NULAG (Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group) is a LEADER action group based in a self-defined upland territory within Northumberland, the northern-most county of England. It has operated in two phases between 2007 and the current period. In the current phase it has only one paid programme officer, who undertakes animation and administration, but is otherwise largely volunteer-led and run. NULAG manages a centrally-allocated grant pot which is distributed to local applicants through a competitive bid process.
The action has been focused on furthering rural sustainability through environmental and social inclusion actions and amenity, services and job creation – though in the current phase, mainly the latter. The capacity of the action to decide its own focus, and in particular to benefit disadvantaged and deprived local people, has been constrained both by its structural inaccessibility to disadvantaged groups and by the LEADER scheme’s framing and administration in England through multiple layers of higher-level governance.
The action can nevertheless be said to be unique in delivering locally-steered, small and medium-scale development funding to a remote and sparsely inhabited uplands area. It has also leveraged considerable match-funding in the form of charitable trust grants, bank loans and personal contributions. This is timely in the local government context where a decade ago, Northumberland council lost its district-level layer and became a single-layer (unitary) council, that is focused on the more populous South-eastern, lowland territories of the county – which are also the main destination of larger-scale development funding available within the county.