Andrew Cummings, Section 151 Officer at Stroud District Council, gave an update on the Gloucestershire Business Rate Pilot Pool and the Strategic Economic Development Fund.
The following requests for funding were made at the meeting: -
1) Rail Investment Strategy, (ratification of an in-principle decision made on 4 September 2019) (Appendix 1);
The committee considered the request for funding made at the Economic Growth Joint Committee meeting held on 4 September 2019 for the commissioning of a Rail Investment Strategy (RIS) for Gloucestershire. The study will underpin GCC’s priorities for rail investment in the County and inform the ongoing review of the Gloucestershire Local Transport Plan (LTP). It will also form a key part of the emerging Local Industrial Strategy (LIS).
Subject to agreement from a meeting of the Gloucestershire Chief Executives Group on 10 June 2019, and the in principle agreement of this committee on 4 September 2019, the committee: -
RESOLVED to provide the additional £70,000 required in order to complete the proposed two phased approach for the Rail Study Commission.
2) Request for funding from the Local Nature Partnership (LNP) in respect of Natural Recovery Mapping (Appendix 2);
Seeking clarification on the statutory obligations of government legislation, (25 Year Environment Plan, Industrial Strategy and National Planning Policy Framework), and the amount of government funding anticipated for the proposals, (including anticipated maintenance costs), the committee deferred this item for further consideration. The decision to be considered at a reconvened meeting to be arranged in February 2020.
3) Request for funding from the Central Gloucestershire City Region Board (Appendix 3)
The committee noted an expression of interest for funding from the Strategic Economic Development Fund (SEDF) to fund the commissioning of work proposed by the newly established Central Gloucestershire City Region Board.
If successful, the request for funding to be used to assist in providing additional capacity and resources from which to support the strategic aims of the Board and the ambitions of Vision 2050. A key function of the Board would be to develop a vision for the future of Gloucestershire to 2050 and beyond. The vision to be incorporated into a high level masterplan, (a key document setting out the growth aims and priorities of the county), and to provide guidance on the development of future spatial and strategic plans.
An expression of interest was made in respect of £500,000 funding. Governance arrangements from which to manage the funds would be developed, including the ability to recruit the necessary staff support that might be required. Administration costs, fund holding and staff provision to be allocated to one or more partner bodies and funded jointly.
The outcomes of the investment, including key milestones of delivery, to be reported to the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Joint Committee and to Leadership Gloucestershire, (as the sponsoring and advisory body for the Programme Boards). To date, no new funding for this work had been received. Emphasis was placed on the understanding that the investment was not only to benefit the Cheltenham area, but the whole of Gloucestershire.
If the request for funding was unsuccessful, the newly established Board would not be in a position to commence work on the development of the annual work programme, nor focus resources on producing a masterplan for the setting out of ambitions for the future. Concerns were raised about not being able to realise the growth aims of the county, including making the necessary investment in the infrastructure and long term aspirations of Gloucestershire.
The request for funding was deferred pending further consideration and will be considered at a reconvened committee meeting to be arranged in February 2020.
4) Request for funding from Cheltenham Borough Council in respect of the Cyber Central Project (Appendix 4)
The request for funding to support the development and promotion of Gloucestershire as the UK home of cyber tech industry and delivery of significant numbers of high value jobs, increasing productivity and driving business rates growth was agreed.
Having considered the request at the meeting, the committee: -
RESOLVED (subject to agreement by the Senior Officer Group) to award £200k funding, based on the following allocations;
Cost of project: £280K
Secondment of Senior Cyber Innovation manager from GCHQ to CBC for 1 year £90K
Commercial advisor / Industry specialist (Bristol Engine Shed MD) £30K
Consultancy / Economic case / prospectus £100K
Project & on costs £20K
Promotion & marketing £30K
Direct admin / project & management support costs not included – provided in-kind by CBC
Other contributions £80K
CBC / TBC contribution for market / investment development for Cyber Central Garden Community £50K
GCHQ contribution of 1/3 of value of post £30K
In kind contributions (estimated value ) £95K
GCHQ in-kind contribution of specialist consultancy support around cyber innovation programme £50K
CBC in-kind contribution - Project support officer – (2 day per week estimated value week £15K)
CBC & LEP in-kind contribution - Management support – (2 days per week (mix of Cyber Central SRO, Programme Manager and other team members)) estimated value £30K
Overall bid: £200K
5) LEP Core Funding
The committee to note: Information relating to a decision made at the Joint Committee meeting on 27 November 2017 in relation to LEP Core Funding.
In November 2017, the Joint Committee resolved that: -
i. £250k of reserves held in the Strategic Economic Fund would be used for the purposes of match funding the Government’s core funding contribution to the GFirst LEP in 2018/19
ii. The first £250k of SEDF revenues arising during 2017/18 would be used to match fund the Government’s core funding in 2019/20;
iii. The 7 District Councils would enter into a simple ‘memorandum of understanding’ with GFirst LEP for the period 2018-2020;
iv. A review of the on-going need for Core Funding and the correct mechanism for achieving this would be completed by December 2019; and,
Historically, the Government has provided LEP’s with an element of core funding, match funded by the localities. The maximum amount of funding granted by the Government is £250k.
Over the 4 year period to 2017, the localities contributed the full £250k contribution match funding, allowing GFirst LEP to benefit from the full £500k allocation per annum. Funding is confirmed on an annual basis by the Government.
Discussions with the LEP at that time (2017) had resulted in a consensus by senior officers representing the 7 local authorities and GFirst LEP on how locality match funding would be processed in the future.
From these discussions, the following issues were raised:
i. There was a need for the locality to continue to match the Government core funding and for the funding partners to be diversified;
ii. The Strategic Economic Development Fund (SEDF) of the Business Rate Pool provided an effective route for achieving this;
iii. SEDF reserves to be released to the Accountable Body by GCC, subject to a positive resolution by the Joint Committee.
iv. The Accountable Body to enter into a contract with the LEP for the release of funds;
v. To mirror Government processes, locality funding to be agreed by the Joint Committee on annual basis;
vi. The exact business rate mechanism for match funding from April 2019 may change as work developed around the Business Rate retention pilot;
vii. It was suggested that there should be a review of the need for on-going Core Funding during 2019 to coincide with the end of the Growth Deal period in 2021 and to identify the best financial mechanism for enabling the Councils to provide a financial contribution;
viii.Should the Strategic Economic Fund not have sufficient reserves to fund the 2019/20 (Year 2) commitment, (unlikely based on the financial monitoring calculations at that time), the 7 Councils would need to underwrite any shortfall;
At the committee meeting on 20 November 2019, the committee acknowledged an omission to consider the award of reserves held in the Strategic Economic Development Fund (SEDF) for the purposes of match funding the Government’s core funding contribution to the GFirst LEP for 2021/22.
To avoid the detrimental financial impact of not making the decision, including the implications of not awarding match funding to the LEP, the Committee agreed an ‘in principle’ decision to award £250,000 core (match) funding to the LEP for the period 2020/21. The decision to be ratified at the reconvened meeting to be arranged in February 2020.