Partnership Management Group
Minutes of the meeting held at 2pm on Thursday 25th June 2015
at Conference Room, Larkhill Community Centre, Wilson Road, Larkhill, SP4 8DG
PRESENT, MEMBERS AND ACTING MEMBERS:
Fleur de Rhé-Philipe (FdRP) Wiltshire Council (Chairman)
Len Turner (LT) Warminster & Villages Community Partnership
Dawn Lyndene (DL) 1 Artillery Brigade-SW-MCI
David Wildman (DW) Tidworth Community Area
Geraldine Wimble (EGW) Independent (Vice-Chairman)
Graham Wright (GW) Amesbury Community Area
Catharina Davis (CD) Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce
Douglas Roseaman (DR) Devizes Community Area
DEPUTIES AND STAFF IN ATTENDANCE:
Alan Truscott (AT) Programme Manager, Plain Action
Lesley Thomas (LJT) Programme Assistant, Plain Action
Kate Forrest (KF) Wiltshire Council
Tony Pickernell (TP) Tidworth Community Area
Michael Mounde (MM) Chairman Heart of Wessex LAG
Alan Titcombe (AT-RPA) Defra
Sqn Leader Ali Morton (AM) MOD Boscombe Down
Flt Lt Ema Bean (EM) MOD Boscombe Down
- 20.Welcome and Apologies
- 21.Conflict of Interest
- 22.Minutes of last meeting 26th March 2015
- 23.Matters arising
- 24.General Report (Paper B)
- 25.Financial Report (Paper C)
- 26.Project Progress Report (Paper D) and 27. The Application Process (Paper F)
- 28.Demarcation of Roles (Paper G)
- 29.Call for Projects (Paper H)
- 30.Appraisals (Paper I)
- 31.Quality Checker (Paper J)
- 32.LEADER Financial Delivery Plan (Paper K)
- 33.LEADER Delivery Plan (Paper L)
- 34.Terms of Reference (Paper M)
- 35.Meeting Dates (Paper N)
The Chairman welcomed everyone, especially the new attendees, and introductions were made. Apologies were received from Brian Clake (Voluntary Sector), Robert Underhill (Forestry Sector) and Andi Witcombe (NFU County Adviser Wiltshire). AT explained the objectives of the new Plain Action programme.
No conflicts of interest were declared, although no applications were being discussed at this meeting. The register needs to be completed at each meeting.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 26th March 2015, which had been circulated, were approved as a correct record.
There were no matters arising that were not included on the agenda.
The programme staff had recently attended three training sessions at the RPA offices in Bristol, covering the background to LEADER in the new round of funding; the processes, audit and irregularities. Further training sessions would include claims, appraisals and the DORA IT system. AT had produced a flow diagram, showing how the process was more rigid than previously. AT-RPA explained that, when the previous programme closed, the audit showed that nationally there were some glaring gaps in the procedural areas of certain LEADER groups and within Defra. This has resulted in the new programme being nationally uniform. With more ‘tick boxes’ this time round, theoretically the process should be precipitated. The national priorities have been set by Whitehall, but the LAG can set the local priorities within these, and there is the opportunity to direct non-eligible enquiries to the growth fund.
12.0 Conflict of Interest – AT had received an email prior to the meeting from Ian Hague at Defra*. As there is no option to change or disagree with the updated policy, members agreed to adopt and read it after the meeting.
7.0 Appraisals – KF highlighted that the appraisal documentation is too heavy, particularly with regard to the procurement process. AT-RPA will feed this back.
M&A has now been renamed RCA (Running Costs and Animation). All reporting is shown in £ and € as the Delivery Plan is worked in € only. The annual exchange rate will be decided between the RPA and the accountable body. This will be an annual allocation, to be claimed from the EU in arrears.
It is unlikely that Plain Action will be calling for formal applications until September. Programme staff are receiving 3 – 4 enquiries each week for Plain Action and Vale Action, some of which may feed into other funding streams. Once a month AT emails potential projects to keep them up to date with the programme process. Although some are now over a year old, none have dropped out as yet, but there has been some surprise at the decision to increase match funding to 60% from 50%, and also that this is funding of the last resort. AT will be working closely with the economic partnership and ESIF.
One of the changes is in planning permissions and consents needing to be in place at application stage this time round, and the appraisal needs to be independently done. AT – RPA will be checking all documentation, and if the measures are met the application will go to approval stage. Forty working days will be allowed from the submission of application until a decision is made. If the appraiser needs more information the clock can be stopped. AT-RPA pointed out that all case officers are very experienced and know the forms well.
Defra has now changed the demarcation of roles*, bearing in mind that LAGs often employ a small number of staff. AT can now perform two roles and LJT can do some of the checking. This had been fed back following the training and will definitely save on the cost implications to the programme.
The PMG was asked to consider how to proceed over the next year. AT – RPA suggested that Plain Action needs to be aware of the call for bids for other European funding streams, which could be from similar projects. Priorities will need to be decided upon and compared. KF voiced concern that the priorities had been discussed but no eligibility criteria had yet come from Defra, but the LEADER resource is much stronger than those of the other programmes. During discussion it was suggested that the projects that have come forward should be considered first, with gaps filled later. The eligibility criteria of these should be checked and some launch activity to take place to celebrate having the money. By bringing this into the public domain in this way new applications will automatically come forward. AT suggested that these projects could complete the outline application stage, moving on to full application if they are eligible. They would then go for appraisal with a scoring system adopted to prioritise them and sift out those that do not show value for money. AT - RPA suggested scoring numerically and using a traffic light system, as that used by Defra for the small grants programme they had funded in house. Although this can be ruthless it results in quality applications.
3.6 Outline Application Appraisal* AT is now able to undertake this function.
In the previous programme appraisers were paid between £50 and £150 each time. The appraisal documentation has now been standardised by Defra, with each project having the same level of appraisal regardless of its value. When put before independent advisers, they have indicated that there would be 2 – 3 days’ work involved for each one and, pricing on the worst case scenario, this would be £500 - £750 per appraisal. Local LAGs (North Wessex Downs, Cotswold, West of England, Plain Action and Vale Action) are considering employing an appraiser between them all. The only saving that can otherwise be made is on the salaries of the programme staff, which may result in limiting the length of the programme by one year.
AT – RPA suggested that large companies in the area, such as banks and insurance companies, and the military, often have people who are running down to retirement and looking for community work, and they may offer a free appraisal service. The accountable body is not able to offer the same level of financial risk assessment as previously, having awarded all four Wiltshire LAGs the full 18% RCA, but Defra will be giving the final decision so there is less risk involved and the process should be sufficiently robust. Once the appraisal system is up and running AT – RPA feels the turnaround time should be quicker than 2 – 3 days.
* LT and AT can now check each other’s work.
* Outputs are now reduced. It is anticipated that the first project expenditure will occur in the second quarter of the next financial year. AT is currently budgeting for expenditure right through the programme, with overspending early on not envisaged to be as much of a problem as underspending. He will email potential applicants to inform them that it will be at least nine months before the money is received, and he has cut down on the milestones with the intention of doing another set once the programme is up and running, with the Delivery Plan having more detail. This paper will be presented to Defra on Tuesday 30th June, and will be revised and updated each year. AT will put this in writing via email to AT – RPA to check if this is acceptable.
An update was tabled but is still unfinished. It was proposed that the meeting on 30th July should concentrate on the Delivery Plan, as it will need to be ratified, minuted and signed by 31st July. The programme is running about a year late, and there is difficulty in that Plain Action is independent of the accountable body. Risk assessments have been carried out but this is a living document. AT would welcome any comments in the days following the meeting.
GW commented that it is really useful having AT – RPA at the meeting, and also thanked programme staff for all their work on this.
* In the context of European funding, this document forms the agreement between the accountable body and the LAG. A document will also be needed for a job description for the chairman and vice-chairman, which can easily be adopted from one set up for a charity.
These were included for information as some of those in 2015 had been rearranged.
There was no other business. The meeting closed at 3.15pm.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 30th July 2015 – venue to be informed.
Approved as a correct record at the meeting held on 30th July 2015.
* (This is marked * in these minutes as several procedures in the papers sent out had changed and a new paper tabled at these points.)