Engagement with Europe - a priority for the Council
Over the last year The Highland Council gained approval of £634k of EU grant funding, drew down a further £1m of grants for existing projects, processed £4.33m of grants through its LEADER project and another £481,000 via the EFF Axis 4 Programme. In an annual report considered today (Wednesday 20 August) at Committee, it was highlighted that the Council has also been successful, together with its partners, in making the case for control of €192 Transition Funds.
The Council is committed to maximising the benefits to the Highlands from Europe and in participating in key European organisations. At today’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Members were given a summary of EU funding over the last year and had the opportunity to reaffirm the Council’s commitment to continue to attract funding and influence future EU policy as well as looking forward to activity over the next 6 years.
Chair of the Committee, Councillor Thomas Prag said: “In our Programme, Working Together for the Highlands, we give the commitment to maximise grant funding for Highland communities and also to influence EU policy and programmes to make sure the unique needs and opportunities of our area are highlighted. The annual report not only summarises all the work streams going on but also gives an update on the latest position. We will continue working closely with communities to spend every penny wisely, especially when it comes to making sure people have access to services in rural and remote areas. We are already very effective when it comes to influencing European policy so we will be continuing to put pressure on, at every level, to ensure we get the best deal to benefit the Highlands.
“We are already actively engaging with the Scottish Government to secure funding from Europe for 2014-2020 and at the Committee today, Members agreed to maintain an emphasis on projects focussing on carbon management, green transport, creating low carbon communities, employability and promoting business competitiveness.”
Although the Council is still waiting to find out about funding for the next 6 years, work is actively underway to engage with communities. Over June and July, 22 public events were held as the first step in preparing a local development strategy for the 2014-2020 LEADER programme. The information from these events has been consolidated and will shape a theme and priorities for the new Programme.
Next month the LEADER team will be formally consulting on the themes and priorities for the programme with as wide a range of community and business representatives and other stakeholders as possible.
Councillor Thomas Prag added: “At this stage one of the things it will be crucial to get clarity on is the list of eligible project activities that are linked to the Programme outcomes so we very much want to hear from people how the draft that we send out can be added to and refined to ensure that there are no gaps. We will also be formally consulting on how the Programme is delivered locally and its financial strategy. Full details of all the opportunities people will have to get involved and give us their feedback will be given shortly.”