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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 22 September, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation

Creative Rural Communities - Rural Development Plan LEADER Programme (2014-2020)

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To seek Cabinet approval to submit a Rural Local Development Strategy for the Vale of Glamorgan covering the period 2014-2020. To seek Cabinet approval to accept the Welsh Government indicative allocation for the Vale of Glamorgan and approve associated match funding for the programme (2014/15 - 2020/21).

Recommendations

1.         That the draft Rural Local Development Strategy is endorsed and submitted to Welsh Government as a bid for grant under the LEADER strand of the Rural Development Plan for Wales.

2.         That the Director of Development Services is authorised to agree minor amendments to the draft Rural Local Development Strategy which do not change the core policy direction nor have financial implications, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation.

3.         That subject to the Director of Resources agreeing the content of the funding agreement when available, a grant of between £1.82M and £2.145M offered under the LEADER strand of the Rural Development Plan for Wales as described in the report is accepted and the programme is progressed.

4.         That subject to the Director of Resources agreeing the content of the funding agreement when available the Head of Legal Services is authorised to sign a funding agreement with the Welsh Government for delivery of the programme.

5.         That Cabinet agrees to allocate £250 000 of the Regeneration Fund Scheme, currently included in the Capital Programme, as match funding for the grant.

6.         That subject to the Council being awarded funding to deliver the LEADER programme, a staff restructure is finalised to serve the needs of the new programme as set out in the report.

7.         That the Council's Urgent Decision procedure, in accordance with Article 13.09 of the Council's Constitution, be implemented in respect of recommendation 1.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         In order to achieve Council Regeneration objectives.

2.         In order to accommodate changes required by Welsh Government as appropriate to secure grant.

3.         In order to achieve Council Regeneration objectives.

4.         In order to accept the grant offer terms and accept grant.

5.         In order to ensure sufficient match funding is available to progress the schemes.

6.         In order to progress the management & delivery of the programme.

7.         In order to allow submission of the LDS within the grant deadline.

 

Background

2.         The Council has been delivering a programme under Axes 3 & 4 of the Rural Development Plan for Wales (RDP) programme for the 10 rural Wards of the Vale for 6 years, valued at £7.7 Million.  The RDP is a Welsh Government plan feeding into a European level programme.  The RDP covers a wide range of activities in rural areas including direct farm subsidies.  Axes 3 & 4 include modernisation of rural economies, and rural community development.  Delivery in the Vale has been through a Partnership and Local Action Group (LAG) formed of community, public, voluntary and private sector representatives as required by the RDP.  The Partnership was established and is led by the Council as part of its Economic Development Unit.  It is known as Creative Rural Communities (CRC).  CRC helps businesses, groups and individuals develop capacity to support themselves making them less reliant on grant funding in the longer term.  It has also provided substantial grant aid for community projects, business expansion and creation of new businesses, primarily in the tourism sector.

 

3.         The current programme has been considered a success with high levels of funding commitment and excellent outcomes against targets. The Council has committed match funding to this programme, but this has been minimised where other funds have been levered in to match projects. The programme has consistently overachieved whilst staying well within budgets by adequately assessing risks from the start. The Council is the Accountable Body for the Partnership, employing staff and carrying out all management and financial roles. 

 

Relevant Issues and Options

4.         The next (RDP) programme for 2014-2020 differs to the current programme. The Council will only be able to directly access the equivalent to Axis 4, known as LEADER.  Axis 3 provided for large grants to be delivered by CRC but in the new programme Welsh Government proposes to retain these grants and CRC will need to bid into a fund on a project by project basis, or work with groups who wish to do so.  LEADER is a (French) acronym which translates to ‘Liaison among Actors in Rural Economic Development’. It uses local knowledge to promote a joined-up ‘bottom up’ community-led delivery of RDP projects, and involves animating the local community into action to regenerate itself.

 

5.         Welsh Government is taking an indicative allocation approach to the LEADER funds, but has not yet finalised the calculation methodology.  CRC submitted an expression of interest to form a LAG under the new programme, and a shadow LAG has already formed and met several times. 

 

6.         The 2014-20 programme is expected to start in January 2015 as a result of delays in the negotiation of the RDP between Welsh Government and Europe. It is planned to run for 6 calendar years until December 2020.

 

7.         LEADER needs to be delivered through a rural Local Development Strategy (LDS). An integrated draft strategy for the regeneration of the rural Vale has been drafted and is attached as Appendix 1 . It has been approved by the LAG and needs to be submitted to Welsh Government by 30th September for approval in order to access the grant. The core themes for the Rural Vale's draft LDS, developed after comprehensive community consultation and addressing the opportunities offered by the Rural Development Plan for Wales, are – 

 

1) Creating more economic value from the natural and historic environment

2) Maximising the benefit of being part of the Cardiff city region

3) Encouraging local businesses and community enterprises to provide local services

4) Improving digital usage within local businesses and communities

 

8.         This LDS offers the opportunity of delivering an innovative programme across the rural Vale of Glamorgan. The LEADER funding will enable a range of activities that will research best practice, test new ideas, trial new schemes and build capacity in the rural communities. As these activities develop from proving concepts towards market implementation, they will be able to draw on further support from other grants as well as from commercial and charitable sectors.

 

9.         A key component of successful delivery is the quality of the new LAG and the CRC team that support LEADER in the rural Vale. Their experience, contacts and creativity in supporting and encouraging rural businesses and communities will be built into the heart of this LEADER Programme.

 

10.      In all aspects of the delivery of this Strategy, there will be an emphasis on creating and growing new enterprises, on new jobs, on training and on developing new skills. These may not be immediate outcomes of the pre-development phase, but will be a clear goal of the projects and activities that grow out of this LEADER Programme.

 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

11.      The existing Rural Regeneration Team has reduced in size as the current programme has wound down but continues to be based in Cowbridge Old Hall. A restructure of the current team is currently under way in consultation with staff and recognised trade unions.  The new team will need to be resourced to access the separate and substantial additional project grants potentially to be made available. All staff are employed on temporary contracts. It is proposed that staff in the new team will have 3 year contracts even though a 6 year grant is likely to be offered, in order that risks and costs can be re-assessed at the mid point.

12.      Projects can be developed by the team for submission to Welsh Government for additional grant funding from a national fund of approximately £47.5M to be known as the Rural Community Development Fund. The team will also be able to seek other grants for projects for both Council activities and to support groups. The Council has benefitted itself from over £500,000 in grant funding as part of the current programme. One of the 5 Leader themes is the delivery of non statutory services in innovative ways. The Council could make use of this resource when faced with ongoing budget reductions and in the context of the Reshaping Services programme.

13.      Grant is a mix of 100% (towards limited non-project staff to manage the LAG and programme and animate the local community) and 80% (towards project staff). The allowance for non-project staff (25% of the grant) is not deemed sufficient to provide for a robust team and overheads, so match funding is also needed to supplement those core costs in order to secure the full grant whilst safeguarding the Council's interests in respect of monitoring the programme. Where possible the Council match funding will be kept to a minimum, but to allow for risk factors an amount is required as set out below to demonstrate capacity to draw down the £1.82M-£2.145M indicative allocation from Welsh Government.

14.      Depending on the level of indicative allocation, match funding needs will vary. The financial tables shown in Appendix 2 demonstrate this.  Estimates have been included for private and voluntary sector match funding although under the new programme that will be limited as direct grants to business will not be administered by CRC. In-kind match funding from Council staff involved in projects, at £50 000, has also been included. There will also be opportunities to secure other external grants which can be used as match funding during the programme.

15.      Match funding will be a key risk in the delivery of this programme. If private/voluntary contributions to individual projects as they develop are not forthcoming at the expected level, there could be a shortfall. Hence, in calculating match funding needs a significant risk factor has been applied. Similarly, the appointment of staff for only 3 years will allow reconsideration of delivery at the mid-point in the programme.

16.      With the above in mind, it is anticipated that a safe level of Council match funding over the 6 years from 2015/16 to 2020/21 will be approximately £484,000. Base revenue budgets currently at £25,000 per year for rural regeneration can be allocated towards this, leaving a need for a total of £250,000 over the 6 years after taking in-kind and other contributions into account.  As stated above, if additional private/voluntary match and external additional grants are secured, this will be significantly reduced. Similarly, if the higher level of indicative allocation is agreed, this will also allow match funding needs to be reduced because it will increase that element of the grant which is 100% match funded.

17.      Included in the current Capital Programme is a scheme called the Regeneration Fund with an allocation of £150,000 per annum for the period 2014/15 to 2018/19. It is proposed that £250,000 of this budget is allocated to be used as match funding for this grant.

18.      In the current RDP programme, it is anticipated that in excess of £40,000 of Council match funding will not be drawn down, despite extending by a year due to the delayed invitation to bid for the new programme and enhancing the overall programme's outputs, due to careful management of risk factors. This assumes the transition to the new programme is timed as anticipated.

 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

19.      LEADER focusses on building capacity in communities to regenerate themselves.  Renewables is a theme within the Rural Development Plan for Wales. The draft LDS seeks to help communities overcome barriers to developing their own renewable energy schemes that are for the benefit of community sustainability.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20.      The Council will be required to sign a Welsh Government funding agreement covering the 2014-2020 period. Penalties, reductions and clawback could be invoked in the case of departure from normal grant conditions such as those relating to the future use of grant aided facilities, tendering arrangements and responsibilities regarding record keeping. The CRC team's Monitoring Officer ensures compliance at all stages of project delivery. In addition, strict monitoring and reporting mechanisms will be in place to ensure that beneficiaries and commissioned bodies comply with grant conditions.

21.      The Council will be required to sign Welsh Government funding letters for projects.

22.      Given that there are staffing implications there are potentially employment law implications. Advice is being provided by Human Resources and legal advice will be sought as necessary as proposals progress.

Crime and Disorder Implications

23.      None specifically, although projects aim to foster participation in community activities and promote economic prosperity which are widely accepted to help in addressing crime and disorder.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

24.      Equal opportunities, including Welsh Language are at the heart of the activities proposed within the LDS and have been addressed extensively within the strategy.

Corporate/Service Objectives

25.      The LDS has been developed, and will be delivered, in partnership with a range of partners in the public, voluntary and private sectors. It reflects current local, regional and national strategies as explicitly reflected in the document.

26.      The package of themes and proposed actions are the best fit between the Council’s priorities, the eligibility rules for the funding streams, the aspirations of the Local Action Group, and the specific project ideas which emerged from the extensive broader consultation which has been taking place this summer.

27.      The programme will support the Council in addressing its Corporate Plan outcome     'The Vale of Glamorgan has a thriving economy supporting cohesive sustainable communities'. It will directly deliver Corporate Plan Action R 13 to ' Complete the existing Rural Development Plan and promote a new Rural Development Plan'.

28.      The programme will directly achieve (Development Services) Service Plan Objective 3, 'To facilitate and promote investment in the local economy to secure sustainable economic growth and improve employment opportunities', and will directly deliver  Service Plan Action DS/A068 to ' Complete the existing Rural Development Plan and promote a new Rural Development Plan' (high priority).

Policy Framework and Budget

29.      This report is a matter for Executive Decision by Cabinet. There are no implications on the Policy Framework at this time.

 

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

30.      Extensive consultation on the ideas within the LDS has been taking place since January 2014. Several workshops have been held with the LAG. Public online surveys have been promoted on the Council website and a consultation event was held at the Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show. All rural Vale Ward members were invited to take part in the online survey feeding into the LDS.

31.      Ward members have not been further consulted on this report as it covers much of the Vale.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

32.      Economy & Environment.

Background Papers

Rural Development Plan for Wales 2014-20 and subsequent guidance in relation to LEADER.

 

Contact Officer

Phil Chappell, Principal Rural Regeneration Officer 01446 704750

 

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager, Countryside & Economic Projects

Head of Performance & Development

Operational Manager, Leisure & Tourism

Operation Manager, Accountancy

Legal Services - committee reports

Operational Manager, Human Resources

 

Responsible Officer:

 

Rob Thomas - Director, Development Services

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