Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance
In my Written Statement on 11 April I referred to some critical milestones that would be reached over the Easter period in respect of the new 2014-2020 Structural Fund Programmes for Wales. I am pleased to inform you that these milestones were reached with the UK Government’s submission, to the European Commission, of the draft UK Partnership Agreement on 17 April, which in turn facilitated submission of the draft Welsh Structural Funds Operational Programmes (2014-2020) on the same day. As a result, we are finally in a position to start formal negotiations with the European Commission.
Following the UK Government’s further review of the proposed UK Structural Fund allocations, I have received confirmation that the financial allocation to Wales remains unchanged at circa €2.4bn (some £2bn). Of this share of funding, it is proposed that circa €2bn be allocated to West Wales and the Valleys, as a less developed region, with the remainder (circa €400m) allocated to East Wales. While these proposed regional allocations will need to be approved by the European Commission, as part of the negotiation of the UK Partnership Agreement, they clearly constitute a significant and welcome investment over the next seven years that will help secure jobs and growth across Wales.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will be publishing the draft UK Partnership Agreement on its website tomorrow, 29 April 2014 (external link), while the latest draft Operational Programmes for Wales are available via the Welsh European Funding Office website.
These draft documents will now be subject to formal negotiation with the European Commission, and so will be subject to change as part of this process. This is particularly so in respect of the strategic financial information presented in the draft UK Partnership Agreement which, at this stage of the process, provides an indication of ’the direction of travel’ for UK European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds against the Commission’s “Thematic Objectives*” as determined by the Europe 2020 objectives for jobs and growth and the ESI regulatory requirements for thematic concentration.
Extensive work with Welsh partners over the last two years has informed the development of individual priorities within the draft Welsh Operational Programmes, as agreed by Welsh Ministers last year, and will now be subject to detailed discussion and negotiation with the Commission. The financial allocations at priority level, for the new programmes will be published once negotiations with the Commission are concluded.
I feel sure that the very positive informal discussions that the Welsh Government has undertaken so far with the Commission will lead to the earliest possible agreement of our programmes.
*Thematic Objectives are defined by the European Commission as areas in which investment must be contained and is a way of organising activities of the programmes to allow an aggregation of data to Member State and EU-28 levels. These do not equate to the Priority Axes contained in the Operational Programmes, but can give a broad indication of funding allocations.