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Agenda item

EU Funding

Report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services – Presented by the Funding and Programmes Manager, Regeneration and Local Services.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman introduced the Funding and Programmes Manager, Claire Williams to update Members in terms of EU Funding (for copy see file of minutes).

 

The Funding and Programmes Manager noted that the report followed on from those received in terms of DurhamWorks and skills development and she would give an update in terms of EU funding opportunities.

 

It was explained that it had been 10 months since the last update to Committee and that in the light of the Brexit result, the Treasury had noted would secure funding up to the point of Brexit, with a commitment up to March 2019.

 

In terms of European Rural Development Funding (ERDF), as of mid-September 2017, £20.9 million had been contracted in County Durham, with a further £20.21 million in project applications, the total being around 55% of Durham’s allocation.  Members noted 25.7 million in relation to European Social Fund (ESF) for County Durham, with a large proportion of this having been linked to the DurhamWorks programme. 

 

The Funding and Programmes Manager noted a list of the projects was set out within the report, highlighting that a large proportion were Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), with many being connected to research and innovation, including the low carbon economy.  It was explained that there is a number of open calls out currently looking to allocate the remaining funding, and that it was suspected that a further one relating to Sustainable Integration of Young People could be a potential route to help extend elements of the DurhamWorks programme, with further details being set out at Appendix 3 to the report.

 

Members were reminded of the LEADER programme and the two areas within County Durham: Durham Coast and Lowlands; and North Pennine Dales.  It was added that the impact of Brexit had clouded issues, though work now was progressing.  Members were also reminded of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), worth up to £10.5 million for the rural areas within the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) area.  It was added that this fund was seeking applications from projects that sought to grow a business or otherwise support the rural economy, with grants available to support SMEs, tourism infrastructure and food processing.

 

In terms of Governance, the Funding and Programmes Manager reminded Members that EU funding was only available for projects that fit eligibility criteria contained within the English Operational Programme and supported the objectives of the open calls.  It was noted that the DCC processes had been review by Internal Audit in May 2017 and some recommendations had been made in terms of helping to make the processes more robust.  It was noted that Senior Officers from the Council were represented within County Durham Economic Partnership’s (CDEP) EU Investment Group and workstream sub-groups.

 

It was reiterated that there was until March 2019 to commit to spending EU Funding, and the Conservative manifesto referred to the creation of a UK Shared Prosperity Fund.  It was noted DCC attended a stakeholder event as regards this, and it had been noted that consultation would take place in the autumn as regards this, however, no further information had yet been received.  It was added that a paper had been agreed by the North East Combined Authority’s (NECA) Chief Executive that agreed a common set of high level principles to guide the North East’s response to future funding, highlighting the need for flexibility and to look at both need and opportunities.

 

The Chairman asked Members for their questions and comments.

 

Councillor R Crute noted reference to €9 million YEI funding and asked for an update in terms of the current situation regarding the paper considered by the NECA Chief Executives at a future meeting of the Committee.  He continued that there is a need to track the progress of this report/paper and that clarification needs to be sought in respect of the status of the report/paper and whether it would be subject to consideration by Overview and Scrutiny, as he was not aware of the involvement of Overview and Scrutiny, himself being a member of NECA Overview and Scrutiny Committee. 

 

The Funding and Programmes Manager noted in terms of YEI, it had been €9 million cohesion fund, €9 million ESF, with the remainder being match funding from DCC.  In relation to the Shared Prosperity Fund she could share the two page update that had been received, however there had been nothing further from Government.  Councillor R Crute felt that the issues would be looked at via the NECA Overview and Scrutiny, however, it would be an area for the Committee to keep a track of.  The Funding and Programmes Manager added that information as regards other funding had started to become available, however in terms of an “EU replacement” very little information was known.  The Chairman noted a letter on behalf of the Committee could be sent to NECA asking for clarification as regards the progress in this matter and the roles for NECA Overview and Scrutiny and Local Authorities’ Overview and Scrutiny in this regard.

 

Councillor E Adam asked in relation to LEADER whether funding was to manage projects or to help create jobs and make the communities sustainable.  The Funding and Programmes Manager noted that the jobs created were within businesses, for example two jobs at an equestrian centre that would hopefully be sustainable through their business plan and another being the creation of “glamping pods”, whilst small scale, they created a direct impact.  Mr T Batson noted that the impact on SMEs would be important in terms of funding and asked if this was including for buildings and structures.  The Funding and Programmes Manager noted it could do, in specific circumstances.

 

Resolved:

 

(i)         That the report be noted.

(ii)        That a letter be sent on behalf of the Economy and Enterprise Overview and         Scrutiny Committee to the NECA asking for clarification in terms of the current         status of report/paper and whether it will be subject to Overview and Scrutiny.

 

 

Supporting documents:

 

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