The last two weeks have been dominated by a number of events and activities focussed on current and future EU funding in the East Midlands. But the appearance of this ‘EU fortnight’ has flagged for me some real failings in VCS engagement and the long term potential impacts of this failing.
As Deputy Chair of the EM ERDF programme board, the LMC, and operator of third sector technical assistance for ERDF, One EM regularly hears complaints from members around:
- Lack of flexibility in current programmes;
- Insufficient local dialogue and information sharing around use and availability of funds;
- Complex application processes and;
- Excessive and burdensome monitoring and audit requirements
In order to try to rectify this we have been working hard to create opportunities for engagement of our members in shaping the next programme from 2014. But the reality has been that although the opportunities are made available they simply aren’t being taken up. I use the following two examples:
- Third sector update and information session – a targeted session for TSOs with limited places. 15 of the booked places did not turn up and three of these were all from the same organisation (I will not name and shame on this occasion)
- Government Cross-Departmental launch event – an opportunity to quiz the government departments directly on their initial delivery proposals. One EM managed to secure 12 places for members but five of these did not reply or send a substitute. One was from the same organisation that failed to send three delegates above and the other an organisation who has vociferously moaned about EU funding bureaucracy and has agreed to input more moving forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I know time is precious and we are all juggling competing deadlines and priorities but come on. This is millions of pounds of investment into our economy and communities. This money can really benefit front line if structured correctly and support providers have a duty to ensure that happens. Surely we need to have a say on how it is spent!!
With the availability of Chris and June offering ERDF Technical Assistance for the Third Sector here at One EM the resource exists to help you frame your thoughts and ideas – just get in touch and we will help.
The formal consultation will open in Feb/March. The message from me is clear – step up or shut up.