Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Government Business
Yesterday the European Commission approved the UK Partnership Agreement covering the European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020.
This represents a significant milestone with the European Commission confirming the Structural Fund allocations to Wales for the 2014-2020 period at €2.4bn (some £2bn) and it sets the framework for the approval of the Welsh Structural Fund Operational Programmes.
The Commission approval sees €2bn (some £1.6bn) going to West Wales and the Valleys and €400m (over £325m) to East Wales. The overall package is broadly similar to funding provided under the current 2007-2013 round of programmes. This marks a significant achievement, given that the EC formula for allocation of funds to the UK would have seen a cut for Wales of some £400m. We were able to negotiate an equal (5%) real terms cut and fairer distribution of funds across the UK, while maximising funding for our less developed region of West Wales and the Valleys. The UK Government has also committed to provide an additional £5m per year in match funding for West Wales and the Valleys and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in recognition of their status as less developed regions.
The Welsh Structural Fund programmes were submitted to the European Commission at the earliest opportunity at the same time as the UK Partnership Agreement on 17 April and I am now expecting both the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) programmes for West Wales and the Valleys and for East Wales to be approved very shortly. This will allow us to start delivering on our shared goals across Government for sustainable economic growth and jobs.
These programmes have been the subject of detailed negotiations over recent months with the European Commission and will reflect the priorities identified and developed with our partners in the private, public and third sectors. The focus will be on Research and Innovation, SME Competitiveness, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, Connectivity and Urban Development, Tackling Poverty through Sustainable Employment, Skills for Growth and Youth Employment and Attainment.
The programmes will get underway at the earliest possible opportunity and a number of strategic interventions in the form of ‘backbone’ projects are currently under active consideration by WEFO.
I will provide a further update in an Oral Statement on 11 November and two programme launch events for partners and stakeholders have been scheduled for 20 and 26 November in North Wales and South East Wales.