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1. The Chairman welcomed Mr Dance as the responsible Cabinet Member and Ron Moys (Head of International Affairs). The Chairman explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss and note the progress that had been made on the specific recommendations agreed by the Committee in its report in 2014. He advised the guests that the Committee proposed to review each recommendation in turn with an opportunity for questions.
2. Mr Dance introduced the progress report, commenting that it included an Action Plan that highlighted the key work streams and successes in relation to addressing the recommendations. He commended the report to the Committee, stating that it represented clarity of purpose and good progress in making the most productive use of Kent’s relationship with Europe.
3. Mr Dance and Mr Moys explained to the Committee that the work undertaken to maximise funding opportunities from Europe was evidenced through a log of all projects, appropriately RAG rated (Red / Amber / Green). Most of the new programmes were launched in February and March under a two-stage process (allowing for expressions of interest to be lodged). In total, KCC’s first stage bids amounted to £16m and outcomes of the bids would be revealed in Autumn 2015.
4. Mr Moys provided examples of successful first stage bids under the South East Local Enterprise Partnership ESIF programme such as a Low Carbon project (£2.5m grant for KCC), a £200k grant under Interreg for SME internationalisation and £2.7m for re-signalling work at Ashford from the Connecting Europe Facility. Eight of the eleven eligible bids under the rural strand of the ESIF programme were from small Kent rural businesses, with a total value of just under £1m. Several rural projects had all successfully secured around £50k each, examples including local developments such as vineyards and apple processing which encouraged economically positive use of rural land in an appropriate manner. Members noted the positive work achieved via the rural projects and were pleased to hear that Kent is a leader in rural development work and that Essex County Council was keen to learn from its example.
5. Mr Moys explained that KCC’s International Strategy had been updated to reflect KCC’s strategic outcomes, appropriately aligned with European priorities such as innovation, low carbon, promoting trade and international rail connectivity. This synchronisation of priorities enhanced the opportunities to access European funding due to the jointly desired outcomes.
6. In terms of developing partnerships, Members discussed the local actions available for communities and Members to influence European activity, including lobbying and engaging with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). It was agreed that it was the responsibility of elected representatives to carry forward this element of the recommendations, using communications between the various types of elected members. Mr Dance suggested that Members with concerns or issues they wished to raise in relation to Kent’s European Relations could contact him in order to co-ordinate the engagement with MEPs to make it focused and more ... view the full minutes text for item 17.