Partnership Management Group
Minutes of the meeting held at 2pm on Thursday 17th September 2015
at Westwood Parish Room, Farleigh Lane, Westwood, Bradford on Avon, BA15 2AF
PRESENT, MEMBERS AND ACTING MEMBERS
Phil McMullen (PM) Melksham
Catharina Davis (CD) Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce
Peter Wragg (PW) Tourism and General Economic Development
DEPUTIES AND STAFF IN ATTENDANCE
Alan Truscott (AT) Programme Manager, Vale Action
Lesley Thomas (LJT) Programme Assistant, Vale Action
Ali Morgan (AM) Senior Development Officer, Wiltshire Council
- Welcome and Apologies
- Conflict of Interests
- Minutes of last meeting on 7th July 2015
- Matters Arising
- General Report (Paper B)
- Financial Report (Paper C)
- Project Progress Report (Paper D) and Project Progress Table (Paper E)
- Terms of Reference Agreement (Paper F)
- Applicants' Manual (Paper G)
- Any other business
PM welcomed everyone to the meeting. Apologies were received from Geraldine McKibbin (Voluntary Sector – Chair, Vale Action), Kate Forrest (Wiltshire Council), Robert Underhill (Forestry Sector) and Alan Titcombe (DEFRA).
No conflicts of interest were declared.
These were signed as a true record of the meeting held on 7th July 2015.
There were no matters arising.
AT reported that new PMG members are being actively sought. The FSB has indicated that they will put members forward once the programme is up and running. AM will investigate if there are any potential members from the Area Boards.
3.0 Training –Defra is visiting the Community First offices on 25th September to carry out local training for programme staff on project management and the DORA IT system. As the national launch of the LEADER programme is scheduled for 14th October, it is anticipated that staff will receive more training before that to ensure that everything has been put in place by Defra.
4.0 Forms and Manuals–An applicants’ handbook had been received on 12th August, but subsequently withdrawn on 14th. Another version has since been received but it is expected that this, too, will be withdrawn, as LAG managers around the country have spotted errors and discrepancies.
AT informed the meeting that the Leader Exchange Group will meet on 15th October, the day following the national launch. This is the group that assists and directs Defra with updates on how the LEADER programmes are progressing. The Wiltshire representatives are still to be decided.
6.0 Local Launch –AT asked members to consider if they want a formal launch or if press releases will suffice. Bearing in mind that 60+ outline applications have come in, a formal launch seems unnecessary. As some of these may not come to fruition in the timescales, there may be the opportunity to call for more projects at a later date. The risk of not being ‘public’ enough should be minimal as press releases and communications have been out since June. A public launch would get the information out, but there are limited resources, and all the trade organisations will know when the LEADER programme is ‘open for business’. Around Christmastime AT will advise members of the scoring system to take projects forward. It was decided that there may be a further press release if there is a geographical area of the programme where applications are not forthcoming, but no formal public launch.
7.0 Agreements–Some LAGs across the country have had their Set Up and Evaluation Check (SUEC) without this being in place. Once again, there are discrepancies across the regions by having differences in how the start of the programme is being handled. This had always been the case during the running of the previous programmes, but it had been hoped that such differences would be avoided with the new round of funding, with more standardisation.
8.0 Delivery Plan - This had been submitted in good time but there had been no feedback to date.
9.0 Set Up and Evaluation Check (SUEC) - The Applicants’ Manual had been sent back to Defra in good time, customised for each LAG i.e. Plain Action and Vale Action,, in the hope of an early SUEC. At the time of the meeting this was still awaited. It is understood that the time allotted to the SUEC could be anything from half an hour to a whole day in duration, depending on how the South West RPA decides to do this.
10.0 DORA– This would seem to be a more logical system than DORA, the previous project management tool. It is hoped that training will identify who will be responsible for each part of the data entry, as some tasks assigned to the Accountable Body seem to show a curious division of duties.
A list of media contacts was included at the end of this report and PW noticed that Wiltshire Times needs to be added.
In the future AT will be reporting in both £ and €. The annual exchange rate will be decided between the RPA and the accountable body.
4.2 Project Funding– The amount of funding available had now slightly improved, but was still £130K down using the exchange rate of 9th September. The table shown in the report had been based on the exchange rate of 0.8 in November 2014. A deficit in year five of the programme would prove critical but each year the Delivery Plan will be revised. The figures in the contract will therefore reflect the exchange rate. There is a risk in finishing ahead of programme end, as RCA will be affected. The highest grant available had been previously indicated as 40%, but in the latest version of the Applicants’ Manual this had now changed. The meeting in March 2016 will be critical. The two most significant KPIs will be the creation of jobs and increase in turnover. PMG members will receive training on project evaluation but, if there is a project involving job creation, sustainability will have to be proven. It is hoped that Defra will look at the LAG's performance rather than individual projects.
The meeting was being held today in a potential project from one of the enquirers.There are currently around 60 enquiries, with approximately two being added each week. AT confirmed that no relocation costs can be paid, although there are many business expansion projects coming through. The new Applicants’ Handbook allows revenue costs for development of products and salaries for developing food festivals and heritage activities, as well as rural services. However, AT advises from experience that revenue projects are avoided. It is expected that there will be 30% to 40% drop off in the number of potential projects as the funding comes through too late for some of them. Some will also be ineligible as time goes on. More forestry projects are needed, although sustainability and return is questioned when these will take approximately 30 years to come to fruition.
The agreement shows operating and decision-making for the LAG. A draft of the changes made by GM and AT had been sent out with the papers. The Named Agents refer to programme staff. Some deletions had been made when the Accountable Body is responsible rather than the LAG.
3. LAG Membership - for protection purposes, to deter activists, it was agreed to keep to a three year term for members. PMG meetings are public, but how much this applies to the minutes needs clarification. It was agreed to add Vice-Chairman to the document, with a two year period of office. PM proposed, seconded by CD, that the document was accepted.
A new version will come out, as LAGs want more information and clarity. Both chairman (FDRP and GM) would like AT to produce a guide (manual) of approximately four sides of A4, to show applicants how to apply for a grant. Prior to this Defra needs to address the issue that not all versions of Microsoft Word are compatible.
Members were asked to consider if there should be a maximum grant level for Vale Action. CD suggested indicating that “Grants are available to a maximum of….” Some projects may have sufficient alternative funding and not need 40%, with some even needing 100% in exceptional cases. AT referred to page 14 of the manual, where marketing is now shown for projects but not for RCA purposes. Definition will also be needed for 'social service'. It would also seem that Neighbourhood Plans can now be funded, but care must be taken with crossover double funding. Improvement of rural services can be funded, but not a business (i.e. quality improvement in this case). There is also some use of the word 'enhance' which needs definition. The forestry grant limit has decreased. Equipment eligibility now shows marketing, and development of the supply chain for wood fuel. There are differing timescales within the document, varying from four to ten working days on the same items and again, clarity is requested for these grey areas. AT anticipates the final version will be received before the national launch on 14th October.
Members were happy with the document so far. AT warned members that there will be more documents passed before them as the programme develops.
There was no other business.
The meeting closed at 3.20pm.
The next meeting would be held on Thursday 26th November 2015 - venue to be advised.
Approved as a correct record at the meeting held on 26th November 2015