Letter to the Chairman of the Committee
from the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales.
Thank you for your letter of 16 February with which
you enclosed a copy of the Committee's Report on European Structural
Funds. The Report is a very thorough examination of the financial
issues and is a useful contribution to the debate about funding.
The Report identifies several points on which the
Assembly has a role and it is appropriate for me to let you have
our observations on those where we can provide an answer.
At paragraph 12, the Committee has recommended
that the Government and the Assembly should jointly publish a
simple guide to public expenditure in Wales, setting out how both
UK and European funding operate.
Assembly officials are discussing this with the Office
of the Secretary of State for Wales and we will respond on this
point in due course.
Paragraph 14 urges the National Assembly to provide
for advance payments where appropriate and to ensure that the
availability of advance payments is well publicised.
As you know, the Assembly is presently responsible
for payments of ERDF, EAGGF and FIFG grants. The financial arrangements
which will apply to the 20002006 programmes will need to
be considered by the respective Monitoring Committees as part
of the overall implementation arrangements for these programmes.
We will ensure that they have due regard to the recommendation
of the Welsh Affairs Committee and the financial implications
arising therefrom. Responsibility for the payment of ESF grants
presently rests with the Department for Education and Employment
(DfEE). We are currently negotiating with DfEE to take over the
financial responsibility for ESF but if we fail to reach agreement
we will ensure that they are made aware of the Committee's recommendation.
Paragraph 23 seeks clarification about how Lottery
funding is treated in the estimates for match funding.
Lottery funding has been used in previous programmes
as public sector match funding for European Structural Funds.
However it is only secured on a project by project basis and a
global total of Lottery funding cannot be guaranteed by the Assembly
for the programme. The figures put to the Commission therefore
do not include projections for Lottery contributions to match
funding. Any such contributions will be a welcome bonus in the
individual projects for which it is available.
Paragraph 33 urges the Assembly to ensure that
the private sector is fully involved in the Structural Funds process.
Private sector organisations have been involved in
all aspects of the development of the programme since the beginning
of the process. Private sector bodies sat on the European Task
Force and were members of the three regional partnerships that
helped shape the Structural Funds programmes. The private sector
has been involved in the teams negotiating and developing the
Objective 1 document and one third of the Objective 1 Programme
Monitoring Committee will come from the private sector. It has
been agreed that the partnerships that deliver particular aspects
of the programme will also contain one third private sector membership
(alongside one third public sector and one third voluntary sector)
at both regional (i.e. all Objective 1) level and local level.
A number of local partnerships have been set up already which
are including private sector representation to this extent.
At paragraph 34 the Committee has explained that
it shares the view that the Task Force was wound up prematurely
and urges the Assembly to ensure that the new structures for overseeing
the implementation of the Structural
Funds programme are established without delay.
The Task Force was wound up once it had completed
its work of passing drafts of the National Economic Development
Strategy and the Objective 1 and Objective 3 programme documents
to the Assembly. Since then the Assembly has engaged with partnership
groups specially drawn together to negotiate the programme documents
with the Commission; these have included private and voluntary
sector participants in their membership. The Objective 1 Monitoring
Committee has now been appointed and will meet in shadow form
for the first time on 7 March.
Work on the Objective 2 document has always been
led by the East Wales partnership, working closely with the Assembly.
They are continuing their work on the Single Programming Document
and have just gone out to public consultation on their draft programme.
The intention is to submit the document to the Assembly in April
and to the Commission in May. The partnership have made good progress
to date, working in an inclusive manner, and there is no evidence
at all that they have been affected in any way by the disbanding
of the Task Force.
In paragraph 35 you have asked us to respond to
your Sixth Report which dealt with the Denbighshire County Council's
I think our response may have reached you while the
current Report was at the printers! Peter Law AM responded in
a letter dated 24 January and the Committee has since acknowledged
that Peter's letter has been received.
Rhodri Morgan MP AM
The National Assembly for Wales
7 March 2000