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Written Statement - Publication of evaluation summary report on the achievements of the European Structural Funds Programmes 2000–2006 in Wales

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Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
I have already made clear my commitment to transparency and accountability in the delivery of European funding and wish to inform you about the publication of a Welsh Government evaluation summary report of the achievements of the European Structural Funds programmes 2000–2006 in Wales.  

Its publication follows Eurostat figures published last week (13 March) on GDP/GVA for the EU-27 regions, which shows that the position in Wales and West Wales and the Valleys reflects a large deterioration in the UK’s overall position relative to the EU-27, mainly attributable to the significant increase recorded in the UK's cost of goods and services compared to the EU-27.  

However, although Eurostat GVA/GDP figures are used to determine the qualification of regions for Structural Funds, it has its limitations. Not least because they are particularly misleading in areas, such as West Wales and the Valleys, which experience large out-commuting flows, in turn depressing GVA estimates. Equally, GDP/GVA paints only a partial picture of the success of economies and needs to be supplemented by a range of other indicators.

To assist in the understanding of the effectiveness and impact of Structural Funds and how lessons can be learned for future programme development and delivery, I am therefore publishing an evaluation summary report of the programmes 2000–2006 in Wales.  

The report provides assurances that the European programmes delivered considerable benefits to people, businesses and communities, with several programme targets exceeded. Indeed, EU projects, delivered in partnership, helped to create 52,800 net jobs and 3,100 net SMEs, helped participants to gain just over 200,000 qualifications and 98,700 (net) economically inactive / unemployed individuals into employment or further learning. In addition, 185km of transport routes were built or upgraded, nine town centres regenerated and over 370,000 tonnes of municipal waste recycled or composted. The programmes also created wider community benefits, such as through the development of partnerships and associated capacity building.

To this end, European funding during the period has been very important in contributing to our efforts to revitalise the economy and in tackling Wales’ long-term structural challenges. Indeed, prior to the recent decline, GDP per capita in West Wales and the Valleys had, since around 2001, been increasing relative to the EU-27, reversing the previous trend decline in the mid-1990s. For the reasons outlined above, however, it is important to place GDP/GVA into the overall economic context and consider a basket of economic performance indicators as a measure of the success of economies.

The economic outcomes that probably matter most to people’s well-being are their prospects of employment and the wages that they earn from that employment.  Using Primary Income Per Capita (which measures the income people earn from economic activity) Wales has increased relative to the EU-15 since 1999.  Employment levels during the 2000–2006 programme period also increased by around one-tenth since 1999 until the global recession of 2008/2009. Two-thirds of this additional employment was in the private sector, and nearly all of it in the top three occupational classes. These outcomes are also ones where we would hope to see most clearly the benefits of many of EU-funded interventions and in both of these areas, Wales and West Wales and the Valleys have outperformed the UK since 2001.

Much remains to be done, however, to create a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous nation, but our ambitious Programme for Government is seeking to deliver just that.  The achievements outlined in the report demonstrate how since devolution and with the welcome and sustained support of the European Structural Funds, the Welsh Government and its partners have begun to tackle these long-term effects of structural decline and change. 
  
In preparing for the prospective European programmes 2014–2020 for which West Wales and the Valleys is now likely to qualify for the successor to Convergence, we will be looking for new, effective and innovative ways through which to deploy EU funds. To this end, I am placing an emphasis on using EU funds in a more integrated way across Wales and I am hopeful the European Commission’s recently published (15 March) Common Strategic Framework will enable us to achieve this.

Following the completion of the recent reflection exercise seeking early views from our partners, I plan to make a statement on our future European funding investment priorities in May this year, which will help us develop the new Operational Programmes that will be subject to a formal public consultation in Winter 2012/2013.

Along with our ambitious Programme for Government and other important strategies, I am confident that the Structural Funds in Wales will continue to help us tackle the structural challenges of the Welsh economy and help improve the lives of the people of Wales.

The evaluation summary report is available on the WEFO website at www.wefo.wales.gov.uk and its publication complements other internal and external management reports for the 2000–2006 programmes made available over the last decade, including the Final Implementation Reports for each of the programmes.

I have already made clear my commitment to transparency and accountability in the delivery of European funding and wish to inform you about the publication of a Welsh Government evaluation summary report of the achievements of the European Structural Funds programmes 2000–2006 in Wales.  

Its publication follows Eurostat figures published last week (13 March) on GDP/GVA for the EU-27 regions, which shows that the position in Wales and West Wales and the Valleys reflects a large deterioration in the UK’s overall position relative to the EU-27, mainly attributable to the significant increase recorded in the UK's cost of goods and services compared to the EU-27.  

However, although Eurostat GVA/GDP figures are used to determine the qualification of regions for Structural Funds, it has its limitations. Not least because they are particularly misleading in areas, such as West Wales and the Valleys, which experience large out-commuting flows, in turn depressing GVA estimates. Equally, GDP/GVA paints only a partial picture of the success of economies and needs to be supplemented by a range of other indicators.

To assist in the understanding of the effectiveness and impact of Structural Funds and how lessons can be learned for future programme development and delivery, I am therefore publishing an evaluation summary report of the programmes 2000–2006 in Wales.  

The report provides assurances that the European programmes delivered considerable benefits to people, businesses and communities, with several programme targets exceeded. Indeed, EU projects, delivered in partnership, helped to create 52,800 net jobs and 3,100 net SMEs, helped participants to gain just over 200,000 qualifications and 98,700 (net) economically inactive / unemployed individuals into employment or further learning. In addition, 185km of transport routes were built or upgraded, nine town centres regenerated and over 370,000 tonnes of municipal waste recycled or composted. The programmes also created wider community benefits, such as through the development of partnerships and associated capacity building.

To this end, European funding during the period has been very important in contributing to our efforts to revitalise the economy and in tackling Wales’ long-term structural challenges. Indeed, prior to the recent decline, GDP per capita in West Wales and the Valleys had, since around 2001, been increasing relative to the EU-27, reversing the previous trend decline in the mid-1990s. For the reasons outlined above, however, it is important to place GDP/GVA into the overall economic context and consider a basket of economic performance indicators as a measure of the success of economies.

The economic outcomes that probably matter most to people’s well-being are their prospects of employment and the wages that they earn from that employment.  Using Primary Income Per Capita (which measures the income people earn from economic activity) Wales has increased relative to the EU-15 since 1999.  Employment levels during the 2000–2006 programme period also increased by around one-tenth since 1999 until the global recession of 2008/2009. Two-thirds of this additional employment was in the private sector, and nearly all of it in the top three occupational classes. These outcomes are also ones where we would hope to see most clearly the benefits of many of EU-funded interventions and in both of these areas, Wales and West Wales and the Valleys have outperformed the UK since 2001.

Much remains to be done, however, to create a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous nation, but our ambitious Programme for Government is seeking to deliver just that.  The achievements outlined in the report demonstrate how since devolution and with the welcome and sustained support of the European Structural Funds, the Welsh Government and its partners have begun to tackle these long-term effects of structural decline and change. 
  
In preparing for the prospective European programmes 2014–2020 for which West Wales and the Valleys is now likely to qualify for the successor to Convergence, we will be looking for new, effective and innovative ways through which to deploy EU funds. To this end, I am placing an emphasis on using EU funds in a more integrated way across Wales and I am hopeful the European Commission’s recently published (15 March) Common Strategic Framework will enable us to achieve this.

Following the completion of the recent reflection exercise seeking early views from our partners, I plan to make a statement on our future European funding investment priorities in May this year, which will help us develop the new Operational Programmes that will be subject to a formal public consultation in Winter 2012/2013.

Along with our ambitious Programme for Government and other important strategies, I am confident that the Structural Funds in Wales will continue to help us tackle the structural challenges of the Welsh economy and help improve the lives of the people of Wales.

The evaluation summary report is available on the WEFO website (external website) and its publication complements other internal and external management reports for the 2000–2006 programmes made available over the last decade, including the Final Implementation Reports for each of the programmes.