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Welsh Assembly criticised over European funding

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The Welsh Local Government Association has slammed the Welsh Assembly for being too slow in rolling out European funding earmarked for deprived areas.

The WLGA is concerned that it is taking too long for projects to be approved and for funding to be delivered, and that there is overall confusion surrounding the programme. It has also questioned how much match funding is available and how it will be assessed.

WLGA European spokesman Chris Holley (Lib Dem) said: “We are now nearly 15 months into the new programme and it has got off to a very slow start. This will be the last time we can expect to receive such high levels of funding from Europe and it is extremely important that Wales gets to see the maximum benefit of it.”

According to Mr Holley, the Welsh European Funding Office suggests it takes between six to nine months for some projects to be approved.

Demand for improvements

The WLGA has called on the Welsh Assembly and the funding office to provide better leadership over European funding, but also called for greater communication and collaboration between all key partners when developing project ideas.

"There is need for better communication, transparency, proper engagement and collaboration with all key partners including the Welsh Assembly Government when developing project ideas," Mr Holley said.

Government hits back

The WLGA's comments came at a "very strange time," said a Welsh Assembly Government spokesman, given that the first convergence projects were given the go-ahead earlier this week and more approvals are expected within a matter of days.

“Other projects, including those from the Assembly Government, local government, higher education, the voluntary sector and the private sector, are progressing quickly and will ensure that the European Structural Funds in Wales are properly spent and accounted for.

“Following lessons learned from Objective 1, a stronger strategic approach this time around has led to extensive planning and discussions among potential partners, including local authorities, across Wales.

“Although this groundwork does take time, the results will be worth it. Better co-operation and preparation will lead to improved implementation and less duplication. This is essential if we are to deliver real benefits to the people and communities of Wales.

“Local authorities have played a key role in the planning and delivery of the European Structural Funds programme, and this partnership will continue in its delivery.”

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