All the answers have been kept as brief and as simple as possible with links to more detailed information where appropriate.
Why has Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly qualified for a Convergence Programme?
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly gained Convergence status in 2005, when the European Union's budget for 2007-2013 was decided. The criteria for identifying regions for Convergence Programmes were the same as for the Objective One Programmes, ie any region with less than 75% of the EU average GVA (Gross Value Added. According to Eurostat statistics published in January 2005 for the 3 years 2000-02, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was at 70% of the EU average GVA.
Will the Convergence Programmes be the same as the Objective One Programme?
There are a number of differences between this Objective One Programme and Convergence:
- The Convergence Programme consists of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) – the rural and fisheries funds are now part of national programmes.
- The Convergence Programmes will need to clearly show how it is contributing to the Lisbon Agenda for economic growth and jobs – this will mean a significant increase in emphasis on competitiveness, innovation and a more knowledge based economy.
- It is proposed that approximately 80% of the ERDF Convergence Programme should meet the objectives of the Lisbon Agenda. All of the ESF Convergence Programme will meet the Lisbon Agenda.
- Most of the investments will be commissioned by the Programmes rather than projects bidding into it.
Who will manage the Convergence Programmes?
The management arrangements for the 2007-2013 Convergence Programme are outlined in the National Strategic Reference Framework and further detail is given in the ESF and ERDF Operational Programmes.
Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the ERDF Convergence Programme and the South West RDA, as managing agent, will be responsible for delivery of the programme in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The ESF Division of the Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the ESF Convergence Programme, supported by Government Office for the South West.
As co-financing organisations who match ESF Convergence investment with mainstream investment, Jobcentre Plus and The Learning and Skills Council will manage programmes of employment and skills activity.
The Joint Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) will have responsibility for overseeing strategy and delivery for both the ESF and ERDF Convergence Programmes in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, supported by the Partnership Delivery Board (PDB).The Regional Skills Partnerships have played an important part in developing regional ESF Frameworks which will ensure regional ESF expenditure complements regional priorities.
In the Objective One Programme, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), European Social Fund (ESF) and European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) were all managed by the Government Office for the South West, based in Plymouth, as well as a small number of staff based in Truro. The Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) was managed by the Marine Fisheries Agency in London.
How were the Priorities for the Convergence Programme agreed?
A detailed and justified evidence base, together with an analysis of the drivers of economic regeneration for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly,within the Lisbon Agenda, have informed the priorities for the Convergence Programme. These must clearly drive competitiveness, innovation, enterprise and a more knowledge based economy.
Thirteen-week consultations on the Draft ERDF Convergence Programme and Draft ESF Programme have also been undertaken.
Priorities for the ERDF Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been informed by the revised economic strategy for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Strategy & Action. Cornwall's priorities will be locally relevant, but complement those at regional, national and European level.
A Europe-wide policy, the Lisbon Strategy, is a key driver of the Convergence Programme. It aims to generate faster economic growth and more and better jobs by increasing competitiveness, innovation and developing a more knowledge-based economy.
Agriculture and fisheries are no longer part of the Convergence Programme. They will become part of programmes managed by the government and will receive funding through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF).
This means the ERDF and ESF Convergence Programmes will be able to focus on other aspects of the economy which will include:
- Building a more knowledge-based economy.
- Promoting economic inclusion.
- Using the environment as an opportunity for innovation; new markets; and business efficiency.
- Making businesses more competitive.
- Increasing innovation and research and design.
- Increasing entrepreneurship and enterprise.
- Developing small and medium sized businesses.
- Knowledge transfer, ie co-operation between universities, business and industry to improve productivity and better utilise people's expertise.
- Using Information Communication Technologies to improve productivity.
- Attracting appropriate business to Cornwall.
- Improving skills and enhancing workforce flexibility.
- Improving the quality of jobs in Cornwall.
- Infrastructure for a competitive economy.
All of which will be driven by the Lisbon Strategy.
As in the development of the Objective One Programme, negotiations with the European Commission drew heavily on and tested the evidence base underpinning the Operational Programme.
What is the ERDF Convergence Programme?
European investment in the Convergence Programmes will come from two sources, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Each fund will have its own Convergence Programme, with specific objectives and priorities that complement each other and contribute to sustainable economic growth.
The ERDF Convergence Programme will commission most of its projects so there will be very limited opportunities to bid into the Programme. Please see question Question 18 for further information about commissioning.
ERDF investment of approx. £311.4 million (approx. €458m) will be supplemented by investment from the UK public sector, known as match-funding. Public sector match-funding is expected to come from a combination of local, regional and national sources. In addition, private sector investments, known as leverage, will be vital to the success of the aims of the Programme.
The Operational Programme and Consultation
The ERDF Convergence Operational Programme is the document which describes the overall objectives, more detailed priorities and financial allocations for the investment of European Regional Development Fund money in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- There was a thirteen-week consultation from 20 November 2006 to 16 February 2007 and consultation events were held.
- Responses to the consultation informed an updated Operational Programme known as the 'negotiation draft'. This was submitted to the European Commission for negotiations in May 2007.
- Following negotiations, the Operational Programme was further revised and re-submitted to the European Commission in November 2007.
- In December 2007 the Operational Programme was approved.
- The first meeting of the Joint Programme Monitoring Committee on 30 January 2008 marked the beginning of the ERDF and ESF Convergence Programmes.
Next steps for the ERDF Convergence Programme
Pre-commissioning work is being carried out to identify early investments for the Programme and investment in key areas, such as digital infrastructure, is expected to start later this year.
What is Commissioning?
The ERDF Convergence Programme aims to make fewer, more strategic investments than the Objective One Programme. To achieve this, investments will be commissioned and there will be very limited opportunities for bidding into the Programme, if any. The commissioning process and some initial investments are being developed by the Programme Monitoring Committee, the Partnership Delivery Board and commissioning teams.
Who will manage the ERDF Convergence Programme?
The South West Regional Development Agency will be the Managing Agent for the ERDF Convergence Programme.
Partners have agreed the overall governance structure: a 'shadow' Programme Monitoring Committee (PMC) and a 'shadow' Partnership Delivery Board (PDB) have been established and was formalised when the Programme began in January 2008. The PMC has evolved into the Joint Programme Monitoring Committee which will have responsibility for overseeing strategy and delivery for both the ESF and ERDF Convergence Programmes.
The PDB's main function is to support the Programme Monitoring Committee in developing commissioning. Commissioning teams have been established to develop certain projects.
How can businesses engage with the ERDF Convergence Programme?
The private sector is essential to the success of the ERDF Convergence Programme and can contribute to Convergence activities by providing additional levered investment.
The Managing Agent will work closely with the Cornwall Business Partnership to ensure business is engaged in the Convergence Programme at both strategic and delivery level.
Businesses will also be able to benefit through business support packages which will be part of the Convergence Programme and are still under development at present. Further details will be made available in due course.
What is the ESF Convergence Programme?
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will also receive investment through the European Social Fund (ESF). This will be managed and delivered separately from ERDF investment, although both Programmes will complement each other. The England ESF Programme will contribute to sustainable economic growth through investments in employment opportunities and skills.
ESF investment in the UK is being managed nationally, so an England ESF Operational Programme has been developed. Within this there are specific objectives and ring-fenced funding for the Convergence area of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The area will receive approx. £133.3 million (€196m) of ESF investment and its broad priorities are:
- Tackling barriers to employment
- Improving the skills of the local workforce
Within these priorities the South West Regional Skills Partnership has developed an ESF Framework for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly which will ensure the national and regional priorities work together.
Development of the England ESF Operational Programme
Following a consultation period from 30 October 2006 to 22 January 2007 the England ESF Operational Programme was submitted to the European Commission on 5 March 2007 for negotiations and on 4 May 2007 the UK Government published its response to the ESF consultation. During negotiations the key issue was the percentage of disadvantaged people supported, with an expectation from the Commission that funds should concentrate on the target groups: disabled people, lone parents, young people not in education, employment or training and women beneficiaries, etc. The final version was submitted on 30 May 2007 and agreed in August 2007.
The agreed version of the England ESF Operational Programme can be found at www.esf.gov.uk.