Partnership Management Group
Minutes of the meeting held at 2pm on Thursday 22nd January 2015
at Community First, Unit C2, Beacon Business Park, Hopton Park, Devizes SN10 2EY
PRESENT, MEMBERS AND ACTING MEMBERS:
Fleur de Rhé-Philipe (FdRP) Wiltshire Council (Chairman of Plain Action)
Catharina Davis (CD) Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce
Phil McMullen (PM) Melksham
Holly Traynor (HT) TEN – The Rural Enterprise Network
Geraldine McKibbin (GM) Voluntary Sector
Peter Wragg (PW) Visit Wiltshire / LEP
DEPUTIES AND STAFF IN ATTENDANCE:
Alan Truscott (AT) Programme Manager, Vale Action
Lesley Thomas (LJT) Programme Assistant, Vale Action
Kate Forrest (KF) Wiltshire Council
- 1.Welcome and Apologies
- 2.Conflict of Interest
- 3.Election of Chairman
- 4.Minutes of Last Meeting (NOT APPLICABLE TO THIS MEETING)
- 5.Matters Arising (NOT APPLICABLE TO THIS MEETING)
- 6.General report (Paper B)
- 7.Financial Report (Paper C)
- 8.Project progress – Tables (Paper D) and
- 9.– Report (Paper E)
- RPA/RDT Report (NOT APPLICABLE TO THIS MEETING)
- Any Other Business
Apologies were received from Andi Witcombe (NFU County Adviser Wiltshire)
and Oliver Payne (Community Area Royal Wootton Bassett)
AT welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made. He explained the background to Vale Action's successful bid, in that Plain Action members wanted to take the opportunity to expand the area to cover the ‘white areas’, and the population limits for a Local Action Group meant that the application was split into two, Plain Action and Vale Action. It was also noted that a request had been lodged for the Wiltshire area of the Cotswold AONB as they had been unsuccessful in their bid although they are appealing the decision. There is no guarantee that funding would be received but there could be an increase of up to £100K. Alternatively, Vale Action may have the option to pick up the area without extra funding, extending the current funding across the whole area to be covered. Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council, was keen to see the whole of Wiltshire covered.
AT also gave some background information on those members not present at the meeting. Captain Rushbridger may be replaced by Major (Ret’d) Rick Henderson from REME ( Museum of Technology). For decision-making purposes there would need to be around 18 members in total, with a good geographical spread, when Vale Action is fully up and running.
AT also explained the delay in the funding coming on stream from Defra. The Operations Manual had been awaited since March last year, unlike in the previous programme where this had been set up by programme staff. Henceforth contracts would be issued yearly rather than for the length of the programme and the first contract would need to be in place before the programme start – only staff salaries and associated M&A costs can be paid out at present. However the programme cannot be officially launched until a new government is in place following the election, so this would be June at the earliest. KF suggested that this interim period should be used to get the process and the partnership working, making it fit for purpose, and recruiting more members. AT proposed that the meeting on 19th March should be for familiarising members with appraisals, explaining how projects will be run, and training, as enough information should have been received by then from Defra. AT and KF would be attending a technical familiarisation session (training) before that date.
This was circulated for signature by those present. (Please also see item 11).
A chairman needed to be elected at this point, to enable that person to receive technical familiarisation information from the start of the programme. Vale Action’s board would be formed using a business type model, comprising a wider consultative group with the smaller board making decisions. AT also explained the process from the outline application to full approval, with Defra planning to pay projects direct following the Accountable Body’s approval. The PMG would meet every other month.
PW proposed, seconded by PM, that GM be Chairman of Vale Action of its first year. All were in favour.
KF had arranged for the LEP and LAGs to meet on 27th January to agree how they can work together, and also explained how ESIF, EFRD and LEADER funding come together, ensuring that projects apply to the correct fund. It will also be important for the PMG to know alternative funding streams to offer to applicants. More meetings with the LEP are planned for the future, and PW suggested that a presentation could be made at the July meeting. AT also plans to promote the programme on local radio and via the business support teams and the Chambers of Commerce, who have been very helpful thus far.
4.2 National Operations Manual – AT has responded to Defra’s draft of the Applicants’ Manual, which Defra now plans to re-draft following feedback. Programme staff plan to produce a manual, using the original Plain Action guidance and incorporating Defra’s new recommendations, in the way the claims’ procedure was advised to applicants previously.
5.0 ROD / CAP-D IT – DORA is to be Defra’s interim recording system adopted from ROD, the previous system, prior to the new CAP-D IT. It would be helpful if the new system were paper free, especially regarding claims, but this is doubtful.
7.0 Project Appraisals – KF would welcome Defra’s suggestions for recommended appraisers to avoid work being duplicated.
AT confirmed that, of the eight LAGs who had not received funding, only five were appealing.
3.0 Management and Administration Funding – AT would prefer to reduce M&A hours rather than shortening the length of the programme. The overheads in the local development strategy (LDS) were calculated for Wyndhams, but now that programme staff are in the new accommodation it is hoped that these would be reduced. AT would prefer not to keep a contingency but to spend the money as soon as possible.
The list of enquirers/potential applicants are being informed and updated every two weeks on the programme’s progress., if it looks likely that their project could be eligible for funding in due course. Since the paper had been printed another enquiry had come in from the Wilts and Berks Canal trust for pub renovation work. All were being kept on hold until at least June when there would be more information on criteria and measures. None of those involved have seen this as a problem so far. Some will come in as an EOI quicker than others, depending on the circumstances of the project. With Plain Action, experience was that nine out of ten projects did go through to approval stage. AT will sift through potential applicants and only bring those before the PMG which are likely to be approved.
Forestry sector projects were needed. It is probable that capital expenditure projects would be preferred. A copy of the map of the area covered by Vale Action would be circulated with the minutes. Match funding varies according to project type, but would probably be approximately 50%. Overall the potential requirement may be that 70% of grants directly create jobs and 30% give an increase to the local economy. KF emphasised that 'deliverability' and 'need for intervention' are the main criteria for starting a dialogue with an applicant.
At the meeting on 19th March there will be a familiarisation session as well as a general update on enquiries, and the terms of reference would be put together. AT had queried with Ian Hague whether under-expenditure would result in loss of funding and this was yet to be confirmed. Wiltshire Council, as the Accountable Body, would be responsible for any overspend. Clarification would be needed on larger projects taking over a year to run. There is some complication in that the EU financial year runs from October to September, with EU monitoring working to calendar years, whereas Wiltshire Council and Community First operate from April to March.
KF and AT emphasised that PMG meetings are confidential along with any material received from companies. All emails should be sent as 'BCC'.
The ‘conflict of interest’ sheet, which had been circulated earlier in the meeting, was discussed. Any interest in the material for the projects being discussed should be declared, even if members were not directly involved - this would include family and direct associates. This would not necessarily mean that members were excluded from discussions, but from voting. In this way transparency is ensured, but it is possible to see the integration of funding and organisations involved.
The meeting closed at 3.30pm. AT thanked everyone for attending. The next meeting, on 19th March, would be chaired by GM.
Approved as a correct record at the meeting held on 19th March 2015