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There’s still funding available for small rural businesses and community groups to apply for with the LEADER grants scheme.
Farmers, foresters and communities based in rural areas of West Sussex, Lewes district and Hayling Island can benefit from LEADER grant funding totalling around £2.6 million until September 2018, and possibly beyond. Grants are available for capital investments for projects that will create jobs and grow the rural economy.
West Sussex County Council Leader Louise Goldsmith said: “The LEADER fund is an important source of grants available to our many rural communities. It’s there to benefit and boost businesses and community groups.
“We know from the previous LEADER programme that this funding has been so very helpful for people developing their businesses and has been much appreciated.
“If you think you’d benefit from a grant, maybe you want to recruit new staff or grow your business, then I would encourage you to apply. Who knows where that extra bit of funding could take you and your business.”
Under the current scheme, a total of £380,000 has so far been awarded to 13 projects in this region, creating 25 full time jobs over the next three years.
One such project is local wine producer Tinwood Wine Estate, near Chichester, who invested their grant in the construction of three vineyard lodges – giving visitors the choice of an overnight stay and a five star view of the vines.
Estate owner Art Tukker said: “We first saw the concept in Australia and New Zealand and thought it would be wonderful to bring back here.”
“Without the funding our business plan would never have been able to get off the ground.”
The owners of Holmbush Farm, near Crawley, were another successful applicant who used their grant to purchase a forestry harvester head with an on-board computer plus hard-standing at their wood-yard. The project has increased the volume of woodchip and green waste able to be processed and created an additional full-time job.
For more information and for details on how to apply, visit the Business West Sussex website at www.businesswestsussex.co.uk or call the LEADER team on 0330 22 28001.
16 September 2016
Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) 2014-2020
LEADER Bulletin 11
Dear LEADER groups and Accountable Bodies,
As we enter the period following the Chancellors commitment to funding for projects agreed in advance of the Autumn Statement (which we now know will be on 23rd November) this bulletin is to update you on a number of things including:
We hope this helps reinforce and develop some of the information contained in the notes of the all-LEADER teleconference on the 18th August. It is accompanied by a technical bulletin, which follows up some of these areas in more detail, and deals with some of the questions raised by LAGs and Accountable Bodies.
The time since the European Referendum has been challenging for anyone involved in defining the next steps for the administration of European Funding, whilst we awaited decisions taken at the highest level on how Britain’s departure from the EU would affect the delivery of current programmes. Therefore, I do appreciate the patience that you have shown, and the willingness of the whole LEADER community to keep the programme moving through this period. Given that promotional and communication activities were restricted, maintaining the focus on providing a benefit to rural businesses and communities has been foremost in your thoughts. I’m
pleased to tell you that work on processing applications has continued apace, and that there are now 230 projects contracted or approved and that a further 208 full applications have been received.
There are 682 outline applications that have been approved to proceed to full application, and another 83 under consideration. In the expectation that a significant proportion of this ambition comes forward as full applications for decision and contracting by the Autumn Statement, we must be prepared to respond to this as positively as we can. Helping you to steer good, compliant applications through to approval and funding is my top priority for LEADER for the coming months. However, it is even more important that potential projects continue to have an excellent fit within the 6 LEADER priorities, and that each makes a contribution to creating jobs, helping business to grow and benefitting the rural economy.
What LEADER can deliver now is likely to strongly influence any thinking in Government on successor activity following our exit from the EU.
Annual Attestation Visits
Although working on applications before the Autumn Statement is top priority, the Annual Attestation is a scheme requirement, so must take place in parallel. Colleagues in the Regional Teams are making contact with all 49 Accountable Bodies to arrange Annual Attestation Visits. These follow up the information on the Attestation Reports that you submitted with your delivery plans in April, and form part of the RPA’s ongoing monitoring of how Accountable Bodies perform their delegated functions.
Accountable Bodies operate within different structures, so attendance at the Annual Attestation Visit will depend on local circumstances. Attendees should include a representative from the Accountable Body with an overview of all LEADER activity and responsibility for its compliant delivery and the person (or people) responsible for the day-to-day operation of LEADER (usually LAG Managers or Co-ordinators). Whilst LAG Chairs are of course welcome, there is no requirement for them to attend, since the Attestation relates to the contractual responsibilities of the Accountable Body.
We have done all we can to make the process as light touch as possible whilst still meeting the requirements of the Certifying Body, and don’t expect that visits will take more than half a day. I hope that all involved will help us to achieve this by remaining focussed on the business of the attestation. Where possible, we will combine evidence checking for RCA claims with some Attestation Visits in order to reduce the need to make two trips and give all of us more time to concentrate on LEADER projects.
Support for LEADER through Regional Teams
RPA Rural Development has concluded an internal restructure, with much of the delivery and engagement work now taking place in three Regional Teams – North, Central and South. We have also secured additional resources, and with new colleagues joining us hope to see a reduction in some of the pressures that I spoke
of in the last bulletin – despite the likely increase in work as LEADER dual funding checks, appraisal QCs and project claims ramp up over the coming months.
Each Regional Team has identified an experienced senior manager who will take overall responsibility for LEADER, and each of these will have a small number of managers working with them. This will focus the work of supporting LEADER groups and Accountable Bodies through three relationship management teams, making it easier to reduce inconsistencies and develop and share best practice. The regional LEADER leads, who will already be well-known to many of you, are Lee Boyes (North) Jo Jury (Central) and Helen Dallas (South). Ian Hague will retain the role of National LEADER Lead, concentrating on technical issues including developing guidance and processes and dealing with queries on eligibility. Maddie Rowland takes on a new role coordinating the delivery of activities including appraisal QCs and dual funding checks.
We are retaining the two LEADER mailboxes - LeaderQC@rpa.gsi.gov.uk for all project appraisals requiring QC and Leaderqueries@rpa.gsi.gov.uk for all other queries. Please continue to send enquiries through these, since this will allow us to direct them to those best placed to deal with them, and cover any peaks and troughs in activity or individual periods of absence. We have cleared backlogs of dual funding and SBI checks (which are now dealt with by a small central team) and appraisal QCs, and are close to doing likewise with the eligibility and process queries. I anticipate that retaining this system will keep response times shorter and replies more consistent.
LEADER Handbook V4
I attached a new version of the handbook (V4) with my last bulletin at the end of May, and to date around half of all LEADER groups have returned a personalised version. We have left the checking of these on hold whilst concentrating on other priorities.
The telephone conference with LAGs and Accountable Bodies on 18 August made it clear that LAGs should prioritise work on projects that are already in the system and where a decision could be reached and funding agreement entered into before the Autumn Statement. We advised against the large-scale promotion of new calls at this stage where there is a risk that we could not guarantee that we would be able to complete the appraisal and approval processes in time. We are therefore keeping any work on handbooks on hold and will revisit them when there is greater clarity about the longer-term future of the LEADER programme.
In the meantime, the advice given in the last bulletin remains in force, that you can from now on inform individual applicants of the changes and clarifications in the handbook template V4, and that this becomes the current and definitive version e.g. on eligibility and thresholds for quotations and the use of catalogue listings and online suppliers.
Delivery Plans 2016-17
Since LEADER Delivery plans were submitted in early April, many of the assumptions on which they were based have changed. This means that many of the financial profiles contained in them, both for the current year and for the lifetime of the programme, are now out of date. We are asking that you revisit your projections for the current financial year but are not asking LAGs to revise their lifetime expenditure projections until there is greater clarity about the programme parameters and budget, which I expect to be confirmed following the Autumn Statement. Further detail on the information we require is contained in the Technical Note at annex 1.
LAGs can continue to operate under the profiling and processes agreed in their 2015/16 delivery plans or any subsequent variations agreed with Rural Development. We will not penalise LAGs or Accountable Bodies for variations to approved expenditure profiles that are caused by factors outside your control.
We know that, should the Autumn Statement determine that the LEADER programme will be shortened due to EU exit, one potential impact will be to increase the proportion of expenditure on running costs and animation (RCA) since this activity necessarily takes place in advance of project expenditure. Rural Development has raised this issue with Defra as one that will need to be resolved with the Commission as part of the wider negotiations around departure from the EU. I fully understand that this is a concern to Accountable Bodies, and will ensure that you are kept informed of any developments on this front.
Changes to LEADER Forms and Processes
Rural Development has focussed its attentions on those process changes that will have the greatest impact on projects coming forward for decision before the Autumn Statement. For LEADER, this includes the processes for QC’ing appraisals and checking quotes at eligibility and completeness stage, and we plan to roll out revised versions of these before the end of September. We are also working on a simplified application process for smaller grants, although we do not plan to launch this until after the Autumn Statement, since it will not be relevant to any of the priority applications currently under consideration.
Director, Rural Development
Rural Payments Agency
17 Smith Square
London SW1 3JR