Partnership Management Group
Minutes of the meeting held at 2pm on Thursday 24th September 2015
at Tidworth Community Centre, Wylye Road, Tidworth, Wiltshire, SN9 7QH
PRESENT, MEMBERS AND ACTING MEMBERS:
Fleur de Rhé-Philipe (FdRP) Wiltshire Council (Chairman)
Dawn Lyndene (DL) 1 Artillery Brigade-SW-MCI
Geraldine Wimble (EGW) Independent (Vice-Chairman)
Andi Witcombe (AW) NFU County Adviser Wiltshire
Len Turner (LT) Warminster & Villages Community Partnership
David Wildman (DW) Tidworth Community Area
Malcolm Irons (MI) Independent
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
Alan Titcombe (AT-RPA) Defra
Michael Mounde (MM) Chairman, Heart of Wessex LAG (observer)
- Welcome and Apologies
- Conflict of Interest
- Minutes of last meeting 30th July 2015 (Paper A)
- Matters Arising
- General Report (Paper B)
- Financial Report (Paper C)
- Project Progress Report (Paper D)
- Project Progress Table (Paper E)
- 50.Terms of Reference Agreement (Paper F)
- 51.Applicants Manual (Paper G)
- Any Other Business
The Chairman welcomed everyone, and thanked AP and DW for their hospitality in providing the Community Centre for the meeting. Apologies were received from Graham Wright (Amesbury Community Area), Catharina Davis (Wessex Chambers), Flt Lt Ema Bean (MOD Boscombe Down), Robert Underhill (Forestry Sector) and Brian Clake (Voluntary Sector).
No conflicts of interest were declared.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 30th July 2015, which had been circulated, were approved as a correct record.
There were no matters arising that would not be included in the agenda.
3.0 Training - LT and AT had received training on the processes. On the day following the meeting Community First was hosting further Defra training at their offices in Devizes, for Wiltshire LAGs and the Accountable Body, for the DORA IT scheme. Appraisal and claims training is still to come.
4.0 Forms and Manuals - A paper set and templates were available to view. There is still work to be done on these - some cannot be accessed electronically and there are some locked cells; in effect programme staff are testers. The Microsoft Word versions are also sometimes incompatible.
5.0 National Launch - AT-RPA confirms this is a national event, not launch, to be held in London. Each LAG has been allocated two spaces, therefore the Chairmen of both Plain Action and Vale Action are attending with AT, and the other place will be taken by either KF or Ali Morgan from Wiltshire Council as the Accountable Body representative. AT informed the meeting that the Leader Exchange Group will meet on 15th October, the day following the national event. This is the group that assists and directs Defra with updates on how the LEADER programmes are progressing.
6.0 Local Launch - Vale Action has decided to postpone a local launch as there are a large number of pipeline enquiries.All the trade organisations will know when the LEADER programme is ‘open for business’, and if there is funding left after March other areas can be targeted. MI queried that all other relevant organisations will be aware, and it was confirmed that all those know who are associated with the set priorities, especially as this is the third iteration of the programme across Salisbury Plain. AT had also targeted all Area Boards. Availability of funds will be tight as there are more projects in the pipeline than money available. Of these interested projects, 30-50 may come back with applications very quickly, so it is essential that the set time frame can be met.
DW suggested concentrating on those projects we currently have, and when the first goes live to take this forward, as something concrete to showcase. If there are not enough projects in a certain sector then it may be possible to divert funds into other sectors. AT-RPA confirmed that a huge amount of farming small grants have been allocated already, so details of the programme will circulate by word-of-mouth. AT-RPA also emphasised the management of expectations.
The meeting therefore agreed, like Vale Action, to postpone a local launch, and to wait until February for any local launch event for Plain Action.
7.0 Agreements - There are three core agreements to put into place and it is understood that the Funding Agreement is still awaited by Defra from Wiltshire Council. Defra has confirmed that any concerns raised are groundless, with the relationship being more important going forward. The Terms of Reference are also still to be discussed. (KF joined the meeting at this point.)
8.0 Delivery Plan - AT-RPA confirmed there were no problems with the plan, with feedback only being given in that instance.
9.0 SUEC - This has now been confirmed for 13th October.
For members’ information Paper C now included the table that went into the Delivery Plan. Going forward all reporting will be in sterling and euros, with claims also being automatically converted. AT had previously informed the PMG that RCA was fixed at 18% - this had now changed, with the latest guidance showing RCA to be managed by the LAG and the Accountable Body. At the end of the calendar year Defra will claim the euro equivalent of sterling spent; the current exchange rate of 0.73 shows some funding has been lost. When the Delivery Plan is re-submitted in April it is expected that Defra will have adjusted the sterling figure to show the money left in the programme. Care must be taken not to overspend on either RCA or project money in year five. Each year a new contract will have the fixed amount for the year.
This shows 53 pipeline projects amounting to £1.5m. Of these, 50-60% will come to fruition, but these provide a good solid start. AT updates each of them by email monthly. Unfortunately most of them are time critical.
Next week AT is meeting a farm consultancy group, and Swindon and Wiltshire Enterprise Network. AT-RPA recommends applications from consultants are reviewed very early on to ensure they are submitted in a good format. He also advised that money is not locked up prematurely, but to check on planning permissions and other licenses necessary and advise that applications are put in after these have been obtained.
It had been hoped that the reports from DORA would supplement this report in the future, but this may not be the case. AT is looking to have a members' section on the website, especially as each project moves at a different rate and appraisers and members will need all project info. AT circulated an example of a hard copy file. AT-RPA advises that electronic filing is managed very carefully, as there is danger of duplication and it is important to retrieve the most recent version e.g. use year / month / day format.
The paper was tabled, as the wrong one had been sent out. This document is between Wiltshire Council and Community First. The original had been compiled for North Wessex Downs LAG and the proposed amendments shown were to reflect Plain Action. The named agents shown are LJT and AT as programme staff, with their positions being 'named'. AT explained the reasoning behind the amendments, and no gaps or additions were requested. Skills and training had been removed as the LEP has funding to cover such projects. The PMG had been short of members in three areas - CLA, tourism and the business development sector. MI fulfils the latter role, in association with young people, as the ex Head of Devizes School with a specialism in young people's mental health issues.
The three year term has been kept, but members can stand again once the position has been advertised, for continuity. Those who were already incumbent are shown as members from January 2014 at the start of the transition year, and new members from January 2015. AT emphasised the importance of members from organisations having a deputy, to enable meetings to be quorate and make decisions. It was also agreed that it is very helpful for deputies to receive their own set of papers and attend meetings to keep continuity and give their own input, even if they cannot vote on that occasion.
Electronic decision-making has been discouraged by Defra at this stage, as it is felt that more discussion takes place when the PMG actually meets. KF queried this advice when compared to ESIF practices, where there is more money available and electronic voting is allowed.
Members were happy with the document. The final draft will come from Wiltshire Council, with the funding agreement, on Monday 28th September, when KF is meeting with Wiltshire Council's solicitors.
This manual will be sent out with an application form. There are considerable problems with its format and incompatible versions of Word. AT aims to produce one manual for both Plain Action and Vale Action, giving only one version to be updated. The version put before members is not yet for general circulation. Proposed amendments were explained.
There was some discussion concerning standard farming equipment. The grant limit of 40% can be changed, but AT has based his figures on that percentage. An applicant would have difficulty proving more grant intervention was needed. There are some anomalies in the document regarding grant amounts. AT-RPA recommends that the minimum grant limit should be shown too. A bottom level grant of £5k, with £100k as the highest, ties in with LEP limits. KF suggested LEADER funds projects up to £50k, with ESIF supporting those projects requesting higher grants, so that applicants are not confused. AT is keen to keep some flexibility, however.
As time restrictions differ with the LEP, and the latter will not be able to fund everything that the LAG can, it was therefore agreed not to change, but strong communication is encouraged. The LAG makes the final decision, but AT-RPA reiterated managing expectations.
In the cases where the document cannot be easily amended, AT-RPA suggested forwarding a list of points for him to change.
Members agreed that up to 40% can be funded, with a higher intervention rate of up to 60% in exceptional circumstances, with £5,000 the lowest grant and £100k the maximum. AT was grateful for this clarification.
All those present introduced themselves. FdRP apologised for the belated introductions for MI's benefit, and LJT apologised for the failure to use the nameplates on this occasion.
The meeting closed at 3.40pm.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 26th November 2015 at Community First's offices in Devizes.
Approved as a correct record at the meeting held on 26th November 2015.