ESIF Growth Programme Bulletin February/March 2020

Monday 9th of March 2020 03:48 PM

Welcome to the February/March issue of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds Programme Bulletin. This month, alongside the usual Programme updates, we include items on the ERDF and ESF reserve funds and highlight a change in regulations relating to procurement scoring and evaluation.

Feature article

ERDF reserve fund update

The ERDF reserve fund is set to launch on the GOV.UK funding finder on 20 March (TBC) with calls under Priority Axis 1, 3, 4 and 6 as set out in the November bulletin. This England-wide (except for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) funding will be available through the calls - we expect the reserve fund to be up to £70 million though exchange rates, actual expenditure and commitment of the current pipeline of projects will inform the final figure.

We are considering moving to a single-stage full application to streamline and accelerate arrangements, alongside an extended call window to provide organisations with further time to develop proposals. These and other call arrangements are currently being finalised and more details will be shared in a special ERDF Practitioner Network bulletin in the coming days.

Latest Programme News

ERDF calls/programme update

In total 834 projects worth a combined £2.215 billion have been approved (the total value of the programme is £3.296 billion). A further 575 applications with a combined value of £963 million are currently under consideration (figures correct as of 31 January 2020).

Four Sustainable Urban Development calls worth a combined £27 million are currently live on the funding finder – all are set to close during March -

They are for Nottingham (closing 10 March), Leeds City Region (closing 27 March), North East and Greater Birmingham & Solihull (both close 31 March).

Following our departure from the EU the ERDF programme will continue as originally planned until closure, providing investment for communities and the economic priorities of places across the country. Letters were sent to funding recipients in February to share this information and an article was included in the January issue of this bulletin.

Further details of ERDF and ESF Programme activity can be found on our @esif1420england twitter account.

ESF Programme – senior management change​

After 3.5 years leading the ESF England Programme Catherine Blair is leaving DWP to take on a new role. Catherine would like to pass on her thanks for all the hard work, drive and passion of delivery partners and stakeholders during her time on ESF, which collectively has already enabled around 1 million people to receive the support they need to up-skill and move towards and into employment.

Catherine’s successor as Head of the England ESF Programme is Geoff Hawker. Geoff has worked in the private sector until 2010, and since then has held posts in DWP and the Department for Transport. Geoff is looking forward to meeting stakeholders and partners across the country in the months ahead; and continuing the programme’s work to extend life changing opportunities to more people and (alongside other EU and HMG programmes) make a positive difference to communities.   

ESF calls/programme update​

The level of ESF commitment as of 1st February was £2.176 billion, 71.7% of the total ESF allocation.

In Priority Axis 1 and 2 there are 272 Direct Bid projects with commitments totalling £650.8 million and 157 MOUs for the National Co-Financing Organisations (CFOs) valued at £1.49 billion.

There are 40 ESF Funding Agreements for Technical Assistance with a value of £28.2 million.

There are 235 Full Applications in appraisal, which total £509 million.

As at 21 February 2020, there were 16 live ESF calls on Funding Finder on GOV.UK to the value of £61.8 million. The Managing Authority launched the Reserve Fund in 2019 and all applications to launch Calls are now considered via this route. Since its launch, there have been 24 applications received, of which 12 have been approved (value approximately £17 million). Call Proposals are assessed against published criteria by a panel comprising Policy, Delivery and MI Leads. Decisions are notified within 14 working days. Where a proposed call is approved, the Call development and publication process continues under existing arrangements.

EAFRD calls/programme update - RDPE Growth Programme

Overall, under the RDPE Growth Programme, 641 projects have so far secured grant funding worth £110m, and £60.9 million has been paid to projects. To date, 1,138 FTE jobs have been created with a further 3,875 jobs contracted.

In addition, 21 contracts for funding totalling £78 million have been awarded under the Rural Broadband Infrastructure offer.

The 3rd round of the RDPE Growth Programme opened for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) in November 2019 and closed on 16 February. Round 3 has proved to be very popular with 3,022 EoIs being received requesting £354 million.

Grants from £20,000 to £180,000 are available for rural Tourism Infrastructure and rural Business Development projects, while food processing projects are able to apply for grants from £20,000 to £750,000.

The RPA is currently assessing the EoIs and will invite eligible projects to submit Full Applications which will be considered at one of the three decision rounds to be held in the Summer and Autumn. So far, 355 projects have been asked to submit a Full Application, totalling £54 million.

To access the Funding Finder tool, where all calls can be searched/filtered by name, status (open/closed), type (priority area), location and funding source, click here:

Guidance Updates

News of new ERDF guidance can be found in the latest ERDF Practitioner Network Bulletin – email to subscribe to this bulletin.

Recent updates to ESF Guidance that have been published to our GOV.UK pages are:

  • Dual Forecast and Submission Form – Claims 2020 – published 12/02/2020
  • Self-Declared Adjustments Guidance – published 25/02/2020

In addition, the following Action Notes have been issued:

  • Action Note 044/20 Self-Declared Adjustment Applicant Guidance – Published 25/02/20
  • Action Note 043/20 ESF Dual Forecast and Submission Form – Published 12/02/2020.

Guidance on EAFRD can be found here:

Procurement update – scoring and evaluation / new OJEU thresholds

Important Information

The European Commission has published new procurement threshold values which will apply to contracts advertised on and after 1 January 2020. These are as follows and are net of VAT:

Works Contracts


Supply and Service Contracts (central government)


Supply and Service Contracts (sub-central authorities)


Light Touch Regime for health/social services


Contracts over £25,000 must be advertised on contracts finder if the procurement is undertaken by a Contracting Authority.

Non-Compliant Procurement Scoring and Evaluation

Audit and verification checks have resulted in a number of recent cases where financial corrections have been applied due to a lack of transparency in the tender evaluation process. These related to a lack of evidence setting out how scores were awarded.
Even where procurements are scored in line with the scoring evaluation criteria, failure to adequately document why scores were awarded could lead to financial corrections.
Examples include: 

  • the scoring sheets contain no or very few comments
  • there are no records retained of minutes of the moderation, notes on the evaluation and individual explanations for the decision for each tenderer

In accordance with  EC Guidelines for determining financial correction (EC C (2019) 3452 ) the level of correction arising from an insufficient award evidence is 25% of the contract value
The ESIF National Procurement Requirements (ESIF -GN-1-001) will shortly be updated to reflect the above highlights.

ERDF - celebrating our infrastructure investments

February’s ERDF communications focussed on some high impact infrastructure investments with tweets, instagram posts and special bulletins focussing on some exciting and unique ERDF funded projects. Across the country our funding is helping local areas and communities to thrive, supporting new infrastructure developments and boosting the economy.  Working together, we have so far helped to transform 22.95 hectares of land in local areas –  about 22 football pitches! – and renovated or built enough buildings to cover 2,300 tennis courts. Click here to see the special bulletin:

ESF project case study - High Level Skills programme

The High Level Skills programme offers dedicated support, advice and funding to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (D2N2) area.

The programme is delivered by the High Level Skills consortium which is a partnership of local FE colleges, universities and a local authority, and includes Nottingham Trent University (lead partner), Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby and Nottingham City Council.

The programme is made up of two complementary projects – Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs and GRADS for D2N2.
The Priority Skills for D2N2 SMEs project supports SMEs in accessing free, bespoke, employer-led training, career coaching to up-skill their employees in vocational and high-level technical skills.

The project has seen excellent successes in this area through a fully-funded, 3-day women in leadership course, receiving excellent feedback from attendees including Kirsty Fisher, a project manager from a home design consultancy business. Examples of other courses include dementia communication and awareness targeted at local care homes, and electric/hybrid vehicle repair to promote sustainability.

The GRADS for D2N2 project provides SMEs with a complete package of free and subsidised support to help connect them with graduate talent and high-level skills. The support ranges from an organisational needs assessment and action plan around their talent and skills, to further interventions such as employability support and workshops, advice on accessing higher and degree apprenticeships, talent grants, and opportunities to put their voice at the heart of our courses through co-design.

We have again seen lots of positive impact from this project, including The Treat Kitchen who benefited from a £1,000 talent grant, and Realm Projects, a north-Nottinghamshire-based joinery company who have taken on a degree apprentice for the first time after advice from our experts.

You can find out more about the High Level Skills programme and the full range of the offer from across the consortium by visiting our website, emailing at, or calling on +44 (0)115 848 8899.

New list of beneficiaries published​

A new List of Beneficiaries, containing fully searchable info for all ERDF and ESF projects contracted under the current programming period, was published on GOV.UK in early February. It’s housed on our resources page, where a range of useful advice, guidance and tools can be found - click here to access the page:

ESI Fund Communications Partner Survey – results summary ​

Over the past few weeks we have conducted an ESI Fund Communications partner survey, with questions / opportunities to comment on all of our various communications activities and platforms. Response levels have increased on previous years, as have approval ratings for the bulk of our communication channels such as our twitter accounts, GOV.UK, our case study booklets and this bulletin.

A few headlines include 90% of respondents finding this bulletin useful and informative,78% find the list of beneficiaries easy to use/search and 93% of those who had seen them liked our case study booklets for ERDF and ESF.

It was good to see that our themed campaigns in 2019 had proved popular and work done on our GOV.UK pages to organise documents by programme (a request from the equivalent survey last year) was well received with 84% having found the changes made useful. There is more work to be done though, in particular around making web pages easier to find from web-searches and heightening awareness of our twitter and YouTube platforms. We will once again review these results and take on board comments and suggestions and identify ways in which we can improve our communications.

We’d like to thank everyone who completed the survey for taking the time to help us improve our communications - it’s reassuring to hear how valuable you find it. We will provide an update on progress in acting on the suggestions made in future bulletin issues.

If you missed the survey and would like to feed into this process please email us at

A separate survey was conducted in January / February for the ERDF Practitioner Network – a summary of results was included in the latest Practitioner Bulletin:

LEP Network Newsletter/Twitter 

To subscribe to receive the LEP Network Newsletter click here and follow them on twitter @TheLEPNetwork

Our other bulletins

ERDF Practitioner Network Bulletin

The new Practitioner Network Bulletin has just been circulated to subscribers. Aimed at partners delivering ERDF projects, the bulletin offers more detailed / technical information relating to the programme. Email to subscribe.

ESF Project Bulletin​

The ESF Project Bulletin is aimed at partners delivering ESF projects to keep you up-to-date with the latest news and developments in the programme, and help you deliver your project in line with requirements. The February/March Bulletin was issued on 9 March – click here to see it:

Have you signed up to the ESF Project Bulletin? If not, you can sign up here:

RDPE Network Newsletter​

The latest RDPE Network Newsletter was published on 22 January – click here to see it:

To subscribe to receive future editions of this newsletter click here:

Contacts and useful resource​s

Visit the Programme website pages at

To provide feedback on this bulletin email