PLANED has been fortunate to have online discussions with local MP and Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, to discuss our work, and promote our projects on behalf of communities.
As the legal administrative body for the LEADER fund in Pembrokeshire, we also highlighted the work of the team in supporting many of the 67 projects funded to date during recent months especially, as our expertise and commitment continued to process claims for 12 projects in excess of £100,000 over the summer alone during the pandemic.
In addition to our Chief Executive Officer, Iwan Thomas, both our Coordinators for LEADER and the Community Well-Being & Resilience projects, Alice Coleman and Abi Marriott respectively, also joined the call to update the Secretary of State on the work of our projects and the wider team.
Discussions on the support for communities post European funding was a significant theme through the meeting, with Simon Hart confirming that he supported the voice of communities and grassroots being clear in whatever the new mechanism for future funding actually is. Recognising the work of PLANED and other community focused organisations, he was very interested in how during recent months in response to the COVID pandemic, we have all worked together, and avoided much duplication in our support of communities and delivery of outputs.
Iwan Thomas commented “It was really welcome to have this discussion at this time, especially with the considerable work and success of the whole PLANED team, which we were able to highlight and promote as best practice; particularly now with the appropriately qualified skills within the organisation to work more effectively and positively with our partner organisations, locally, regionally, and nationally. Being able to promote this to not only our MP, but also the Secretary of State for Wales demonstrates how PLANED has become in the last two years, more open and able to work effectively with, and for communities in an innovative and forward looking way.”
Reflecting on the success to date, but impending closure of the LEADER Programme in 2023, Alice Coleman stated “Being able to highlight to Simon Hart the skills that the team here has in supporting communities and their projects as part of the LEADER Programme is something Pembrokeshire cannot afford to lose. Working with the voluntary Local Action Group, the collective knowledge, qualifications, and experience of the LEADER team in supporting those communities, is based on continued and detailed working within those localities, and is not something can be, or should be lost, as we await details for whatever new funding arrangements come into effect.”
Highlighting examples of clear outputs PLANED has delivered from support to wider town and community councils, to bespoke community project support to the Secretary of State, Abi Marriot highlighted “In discussions today, it was useful to be able to draw upon so many examples which we as a team have delivered in the last two years particularly, using new modern engagement tools and practices with communities, which is an area around digital innovation, we continue to develop.”
As a result of discussions today and the promotion of community needs alongside the work of PLANED generally, it was agreed to continue to engage more routinely, to support collective aims and ambitions for our rural, coastal and urban communities across the region, and to share best practice with applicable partners locally and nationally as required.