Agenda and Minutes

Vale Action

Partnership Management Group

Minutes of the meeting held at 2pm on Thursday 19th November 2015

at Council Chamber, Calne Town Hall, The Strand, Calne, SN11 0EN

PRESENT, MEMBERS AND ACTING MEMBERS

Geraldine McKibbin            (GM)               Independent – Chair, Vale Action

Catharina Davis                   (CD)                Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce

Rebecca Goddard                (RG)                Corsham

Campbell Ritchie                 (CR)                Independent

Ayhan Dawood                    (AD)                Independent

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

Alan Titcombe                      (AT-RPA)       Defra

   

  1. 49.Welcome and Apologies

GM welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made. Apologies were received from Phil McMullen (Melksham), Peter Wragg (Tourism and General Economic Development), Kate Forrest (Wiltshire Council), Robert Underhill (Forestry Sector) and Andi Witcombe (NFU County Adviser Wiltshire). GM thanked programme staff for all their work in getting the new LAG up and running, and explained how the programme will take shape, explaining that board members will recommend projects for approval by Defra.

  1. 50.Conflict of Interests

The register was circulated for signature. No conflicts of interest were declared.

  1. 51.Minutes of last meeting on 17th September 2015

These were signed as a true record of the meeting held on 17th September 2015.

  1. 52.Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

  1. 53.General Report (Paper B)

AT reported that Leader groups differ greatly nationwide but the messages coming out are now more consistent. AT-RPA confirmed that international auditors will be regulating the programme for compliance.

4.0 TrainingAT and LJT would shortly be attending appraisal training in Bristol. AT explained the DORA computer system for the benefit of the new members. AT-RPA gave some background, confirming the system had been devised by the University of Southampton, that the RPA had been using it for approximately a year now for some grant funding and it had proved a very useful system.

5.0 Forms and Manuals - The personalised manual was now on the website and the forms were also in the process of being personalised for Vale Action. The guidance notes for the outline application form had not been too helpful. Those for the countryside grants were being used and adapted, and AT’s version may be used nationwide.

8.0 Set Up and Evaluation Check- The four local LAG managers, with four Wiltshire Council staff, had met with AT-RPA.

10.0 “Open for Business” - Vale Action and Plain Action had been open for business since Friday 13th November. Potential applicants and partner organisations are being circulated with the application form, following discussion with programme staff beforehand, and the form is therefore not on the website. All PMG members will receive a list of partner organisations. The Chambers of Commerce, Area Boards, FSB, NFU and local farming organisations had all had presentations by AT prior to the start of the
programme. AT liaises with Wiltshire Council and the LEP regarding other appropriate funding streams for applicants where necessary.

  1. 54.Financial Report (Paper C)

This paper keeps members informed. The funding is received in euros, and is currently reducing. The fluctuating exchange rate applies to all but is fixed at 18% for RCA (development costs) purposes, therefore if the pot shrinks over all so will the RCA, in which case the programme may not run the full five year course. Appraisals will also come within the 18% RCA.

  1. 55.Project Progress Report (Paper D) and Project Progress Table (Paper E)

AT explained how the progress of the programme is shown in the standard papers. GM was appreciative of the fact that AT had “got the message out” to over £2m of projects. AT confirmed that during the previous Plain Action programme four out of five projects were followed through. Those that are nonstarters (non-eligible) are not recorded in these papers, but are hopefully realistic with a chance of success. The onerous nature of the conditions of the programme and the time restrictions can put people off, however, so if other funding is available it would be preferable to use it. Projects have been told this and it would also be picked up at appraisal stage. The RPA viewpoint is that if an applicant has been to the bank and reached their lending threshold yet has a supporting letter from the bank this would be sufficient to warrant funding; also the bank may confirm support if Leader funding should be awarded. It will be necessary to check for public/public match and a need from where the match funding derives. (A rolling three-year period applies to this.).

£5k has been agreed as the most sensible minimum grant. GM felt that projects will self-select because of the application process being so onerous but we could also redirect potential applicants to Community Foundation, Fredericks, etc. The suggested intervention rate is 40% but members can decide following appraisal, and if the RPA recommends if this should be less. There may also be some ineligible costs. When the outline application has been completed there will be the requirement to give an indication of outputs e.g. jobs, number of tourists overnights stays, etc.

  1. National Event 14th October (Paper F)

GM reported that there had been a good array of speakers, although Defra have been very cautious following some penalties under the previous programme, resulting from some incompetencies nationally. There were some conflicting views of what could be funded. Eighty LAGs had attended but there had been little opportunity to partake in any discussion, but rather proposed principles not finalised. It had been most disappointing that it had not been a two-way conversation. However, it is good news that the programme has now been signed off, although the system and forms are still not completely on stream. AT confirmed that he, with the other attendees, had attended between them all four workshops on the day, which all confirmed that at least 70% of the projects funded had to centre on jobs and increasing the economy, with 30% on other projects. It is only the former percentage that can be increased.

AM. had attended the Leader Exchange Group (LEG) with Lord Caernarvon, the day following the National Event, as the representatives for the six local LAGs on the forum. The exchange rate was unclear, and had caused difficulties the day before, so Alison Webster had given clarification, and some notes are still to come out on this. The exchange rate for RCA is 0.8 but for projects, Defra, not the accountable body, will carry the risk, and the detail is still to come. It is recommended that the programme should frontload with larger projects and smaller grants to come later. AT-RPA confirmed that the programme had been decided by policymakers and is difficult to change, but if a LAGwants to use the first-come, first-served basis, being the fairest, this is allowable. At the time of the 2½ year Defra audit there could be redistribution of funds and therefore flexibility on the rate of spend.

AM confirmed that there is separate funding available for Leader co-operation projects. (Vale Action was considering a food and drink co-operation project centred on the A4 corridor. For an international project it was hoped to use the historic links with Germany via its military links.)

AM also reported from the LEG that feedback had also suggested that some revenue funding would be useful, although the guidelines would not be available for this until next year. The LEG is a useful forum and LAG managers can feed into it.

  1. Open for Business (Application process) (Paper G)

As Programme Manager, AT needs to keep members informed and give the opportunity for questions. He showed the flowchart in all the detail required for the programme. Following the audit from the previous program there was now a considerable amount of cross checking. AT also showed the outline application form and what it entails. There was some discussion on ineligible costs and the anomaly between increasing farm productivity and job creation, when it comes to mechanisation, and it was confirmed that job creation comes further down the line. Sustainability and displacement were also discussed; there needs to be added value in Wiltshire but displacement is really only acceptable outside the LAG’s boundary. Program staff will clarify when projects start to come through, on further eligible/ineligible items.

The full application process will be explained at a later meeting as the form is being revised currently to simplify it. The current criteria will be put on the website. GM is confident that the programme will 'come to life' when it is not just a blank form. Members should not need to concern themselves with the complexity of the form and programme staff will assist applicants as much as possible.

  1. 56.Any Other Business

Vale Action is still seeking members, especially now it is officially open. Members are sought in the areas of priority, as proscribed in the programme, and those who have business knowledge and skills. AT suggested that members keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook. He also reminded members of the importance of respecting the confidentiality of applicants at all times.

AM suggested that it would be useful to have a schematic overview for the Growth Fund calls and how this integrates with other programmes and she will arrange to do a presentation at a PMG meeting.

LJT confirmed that the correct meeting dates for 2016 are on the website.

The meeting closed at 4pm.

The next meeting would be held on Thursday 21st January 2016 - venue to be advised.

Approved as a correct record at the meeting held on 21st January 2016.

Signed ………………………………………………………..

Position: Chairman

Date: