Venue: Wantsum Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
Contact: Denise Fitch 01622 694269
(1) The Chairman welcomed David Godfrey & Ross Gill to the meeting.
(2) David Godfrey is currently seconded as the Interim Director of SELEP. He gave an overview of the role of the Local Enterprise Partnership and explained the relationship between the Growth Deals, which give access to the Growth Fund, and EU funding via the European Structural and Investment Funds. EU funding is a way of achieving the Growth Deal. The European Structural and Investment Funds Strategy (SIF) is due by the end of January. The SIF strategy aimed to develop with Government and through wider public sector spending, private investment and match finance, would inject a minimum of £5b new investment to boost the economies of Essex, Southend and Thurrock, East Sussex, Kent and Medway over the rest of the decade.
(3) The draft Strategy was produced in accordance with the Government Guidance to Local Enterprise Partnerships. It forms part of the wider economic growth strategy and acts in support of the SELEP Strategic Economic Plan. It was developed with a broad range of partners across the SELEP area including local businesses, local authorities, education institutions, the voluntary and community sectors and other stakeholders.
(4) The SELEP will receive £165 million plus £15 million, rural fund, making £180 million EU funding. The lobbying that has taken place to achieve this has been good but now the priority must be on accessing it for Kent. The means of doing this will be through the Growth Deal Strategic Economic Plan, due end of March, and the European Structural and Investment Funds Strategy.
(5) David went on to talk about European Structural Investment Funds (SIF) and explained that the strategy was being revised to build in local information which would bring in increased opt-in funding in conjunction with the Skills Funding Agency. Together with the use of JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Development in City Areas) developed by the European Commission. This would enable the LEP to lever in more funding for specific projects. He explained that it was an opportunity to link to wider growth packages by evidencing success of local schemes in Kent and Medway.
(6) The actual procedures around operating the fund are not defined as yet. There are some criteria that projects must meet to get funding like value for money and an evidence base showing a clear need for the intervention.
Question – what are the mechanics of winning bids assuming it would need to be robustly defended?
(7) David advised that the allocation was £165 million and it was a case of deciding how this could be accessed.
Question – who is the decision maker?
(8) David advised that it would the LEP and local priorities would need to be indicated. He explained that 85% would be distributed locally and although there could be a potential difficulty with this, with European experience in Kent he was sure this would not be the case.
Question - the strategy document is key and – how does ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
(1) Mr Samson introduced himself as the Trade Development Manager within KCC’s International Affairs Team. His primary role was to focus on European co-operation and project development and until 2009 this had involved work in helping to secure Interreg funding for KCC and a variety of Kent-based organisations. His focus was now primarily on international trade promotion.
(2) Mr Samson went on to give a presentation on Kent’s role in EU Funding and International Trade Development. He began by describing it as identifying opportunities; shaping and influencing programmes; developing strategic projects with key partners; and supporting project development (and appraisal) and project delivery. KCC needed to ensure that the programmes and projects accorded with its priorities. A lot of KCC’s work involved mapping these priorities against opportunities within EU funding streams.
(3) Mr Samson continued by outlining the factors that enabled KCC to achieve success with projects supporting core business. The first of these was the dedicated staff resource and expertise, leading to an understanding of the programmes and developing excellent connections to programme bodies and partners. Staff members had become very familiar with the EU funding mechanisms and had the support of well-established partnerships, enabling them to focus on Interreg cross-border programmes, in line with KCC’s priorities.
(4) Mr Samson contrasted the positive factors with reasons that opportunities had been missed, particularly in wider pan-European and thematic programmes in areas such as environmental protection and innovation. He said this was due to a general lack of awareness of the opportunities and staff capacity (a number of project staff having left KCC). Budgetary pressures had the potential to jeopardise match funding (which for the majority of funding programme to date had been 50%). Awareness of EU funding opportunities within the KCC Directorates was also variable. The Enterprise and Environment Directorate was very proactive in this field, whereas FSC and ELS posed a greater challenge, requiring awareness-raising within their Directorate Management Teams.
(5) Mr Samson went on to identify the risks and challenges associated with EU Funding. He said that as a result of diminishing staff resources, it had become more difficult to monitor, identify and raise awareness of EU funding opportunities, and to support project development within all the KCC Directorates. Another challenge was posed by the complex project management and eligibility requirements. The External Funding Finance Unit performed an essential service in ensuring that the funding bids were duly and correctly prepared and delivered. There was a widespread misunderstanding of the purposes of EU funding. The Economic Development Team often received calls asking for EU assistance for local activities such as renovating community facilities (which would not usually meet the eligibility criteria). Lastly, negative media coverage (particularly of non-flagship projects) tended to increase the difficulty of raising awareness of the opportunities available.
(6) Mr Samson then described the Kent International Business Programme (KIB) which had received a “Highly Commended” award in the 2013 Enterprising Britain Awards. KIB had been set up in 2011 in response to a study ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
(1) The Chairman welcomed Myriam Caron to the meeting and invited her to give the Committee background information about her role and how it had developed since 1997, before answering questions from Members of the Committee.
(2) Ms Caron said she was originally attracted to the post within the Economic Development team because she thought KCC was being adventurous and modern. She went on to say that KCC had a good reputation in Europe and the original focus of her role was to raise awareness of European funding, particularly Interreg (2A at that time). in rural areas with districts and in fact the whole of Kent. She worked closely with Nord Pas de Calais, focusing on KCC priorities and bringing through funding to achieve common objectives.
(3) Her role had evolved and since March 2012 she had been acting as the Hardelot Centre manager, living on site as well as undertaking her normal duties in Maidstone. The Hardelot Centre is owned by KCC for the benefit of schools, youth organisations and the broader community and had been considered for closure 3 years ago. It was close to Hardelot Castle and was an asset. She also said that the closing the centre would send a wrong message and there were opportunities to use it differently. It still welcomed schools, mainly primary at present but had been opened to schools in the whole of the UK and also French Groups. There could be more of a focus on what we want to do for young people with regard to e.g. language and travel. People in Nord Pas de Calais are interested in Kent and it gives people from Kent the chance to meet residents of Nord Pas de Calais. We could do more around education and other partners in the UK can see what Kent is doing. We could use it to promote local produce from Kent.
Question – Could the facilities at Hardelot be used for seminars for British businesses to learn about French culture with a view to developing trading opportunities?
(4) Ms Caron said the centre could be developed in a variety of ways and a vision/ mission statement needed to be developed and agreed. Why we should keep it, what we should do and how it fits with our European activities and priorities.
Question- Is more publicity needed in order to promote its facilities
(5) Yes more publicity was required, the centre as a whole needed to be run like a business; it is now viable but we could do a lot better and KCC needed to decide what it wanted from it and be clear how it benefitted the residents of Kent. The French are very keen to use it and there are 120 secondary schools that are keen to pair up here. We need to look at the accommodation; there are small conference facilities.
How many beds has the centre?
Could the centre be developed as an equestrian centre?
(1) The Chairman welcomed Tudor Price to the meeting and invited him to introduce himself and outline the role of the Chamber of Commerce, before answering questions from Members of the Committee.
(2) Mr Price said the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce was one of 52 accredited British Chambers in the UK and represents the County of Kent. He said the Chamber of Commerce was involved in domestic and international activity and provided support and advice to businesses. He referred to the Quarterly International Trade Outlook which had been included in the agenda for the meeting and set out the opportunities and risks facing British companies and provided a useful tool for monitoring export and economic activity.
(3) He said that the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce was involved with Kent International Business (KIB) and was a partner with KCC in the 2 Seas Trade Project. He said that KCC’s activity in Europe was useful and benefitted Kent partly because of being able to access EU funds and also because of the learning from the experience which could be shared with small and medium sized business (SME). The Chamber of Commerce played a key role in ensuring that the offer to local business was relevant and attractive but that it took time to persuade business to engage in Europe. However 2 Seas Trade was feted in Europe and the success had been because of our involvement with partners. It had focused delivery on what businesses want and produced outputs.
Question – Are younger/new enterprises more likely to think about external trade than longer established businesses?
(4) Mr Price said that there was not enough evidence to support this view and small businesses tended to focus on raising sufficient capital to get established in the first instance. The Chamber of Commerce then encourages them to expand their thinking to include trading with Europe.
Question - Given the single market it is as easy to trade with Dusseldorf as it is with Dundee: what specific projects to encourage international trade need additional input from Chambers of Commerce?
(5) The Chamber of Commerce is involved in direct recruitment, training and introductions and brings a commercial focus to the offer. Interreg projects require partnership working, involve significant amounts of paperwork and spreadsheets, and generate a plethora of logos and badges which can all appear dull to businesses and is not what they want. There are real opportunities for commercial reality to bring the offer into focus and 2 Seas Trade has been successful so far. The Chamber of Commerce shapes what is being offered to make it attractive to local business.
Does the Chamber of Commerce run trade fairs in Kent?
(6) No. There is insufficient sector demand in Kent and from the inward investment perspective the focus is on creating wealth through successful businesses.
Do you get involved in invisible (service) exports?
(7) Yes. This is normally through partnership arrangements. British Chamber of Commerce is working with UK ... view the full minutes text for item 16.