Agenda item

Overview of Existing Regional Programmes - Verbal Update


A verbal update was provided in regards to two of the key regional programmes that were assisting to deliver the Regional Economic Delivery Plan (REDP).

It was noted that it would be key to keep in mind the three missions within the REDP, as they were important in guiding the way that the programmes were being deployed; particularly the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and the Transforming Towns Programme.

Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF)

Officers explained that there were a series of anchor projects on the key themes linked to the REDP; the principle among these were the business development and employability strands.

It was highlighted that the programme was planned at a regional level, however delivery was being tailored within each Local Authority area; this meant that each Local Authority could move at a pace that was most appropriate to them and the scale of budget allocation that they were granted by UK Government. Officers stated that the regional dimension was there, however it was equally important to ensure there was the flexibility to scale the pace and design according to local need.

Members were reassured that the nature of the projects were broadly following along the lines of the REDP; the advice and documentation that was given early on in the programme were being acknowledged, and the projects that were coming in were consistent with the delivery needed to start the implementation of the REDP.

The Committee was informed that the anchor design enabled existing staff, within the teams at each Local Authority, to make a start on the work reasonably quickly; particularly for the creation and distribution of grants to small businesses, and in the area of community development. 

It was stated that the level of commitment across the programme was very high, and the Local Authorities were almost fully committed between the anchor projects and open calls; with part of that being allocated to grant schemes that were open on an as needs basis. Officers confirmed that there were still some open calls to be concluded, particularly in Pembrokeshire; however, this exercise was due to be completed by the Christmas period.

Officers added that funding was moving quickly, and Local Authorities had worked well together in getting this work to the point that it was currently at; this arrangement had also allowed for smaller organisations to be the first to benefit, which hadn’t always been the case in the past.

In regards to future meetings of the Economic Wellbeing and Regional Economic Development Sub Committee, Officers explained that they will be able to provide a comprehensive overview of all of the finances in details, and the outputs that were being achieved. It was explained that the system for this this had been built, and the first claim period would end on 17 October 2023; once the submissions were in, Officers will collate the data and produce a regional report which will capture the performance of the programme across the Region.

Transforming Towns Programme

It was explained that the way in which SPF had been deployed, was built on the existing model in place of the Transforming Towns Capital Programme; which was noted to be a rolling capital programme of around £9million per year.

Officers highlighted that the relationship between the four Local Authorities had matured since the start of the delivery of this programme, in terms of being realistic about the challenges faced by capital project delivery.

Members were informed that a continual pipeline of schemes was maintained, both at a larger scale and smaller scale. It was noted that the larger scale strategic projects were based in the £250k+ grant band; the Region had numerous of examples of these types of projects. The smaller scale grants were noted to be utilised for targeted interventions in town centres.

It was stated that there was a slight difference in the level of flexibility between the way in which the SPF was able to be deployed, versus the Transforming Towns Programme; however, the tools that the programme makes avaliable were having a visible effect on all town centres across the Region, and helping to reinforce the missions of the REDP.

Reference was made to the town centre 0% interest loan option, which had been very helpful in unlocking private sector development by helping to save off that interest; this was particularly helpful to businesses in the current climate.

Officers concluded that the range of tools avaliable across the Region provided Officers the steer to be able to deliver against the REDP; between the gap filling that SPF was able to provide, and the funding through the Welsh Government for the Transforming Towns Programme.