Friday, 26 July 2013 18:50

Government 'must heed rural warning'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Government 'must heed rural warning'

THE government must take action following a warning by MPs that countryside communities are being given a raw deal, says England's biggest rural partnership.

The Rural Services Network, which represents more than 100 local authorities and over 100 other rural organisations, made the call in response to a report by rural MPs.

Government policy too often fails to take account of the challenges to providing services for people in rural communities, says the report by the House of Commons rural affairs committee.

Responding to the document, Rural Services Network Chief Executive Graham Biggs said: "We have long campaigned for a fairer deal for England's rural communities."

He added: "This report really drives home the added cost and challenges of delivering public services in rural areas where local authorities have to deliver more with less.

"The government is moving too slowly to relieve this problem - rural residents continue to pay more council tax for fewer services because of historic underfunding," said Mr Biggs.

"We fully endorse the report's call for the government to ensure that future settlements recognise the premium that exists in the provision of services to rural areas. It is time for action."

The charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) said rural communities needed hands-on help from expert organisations to tackle mounting problems.

These included cuts in healthcare and transport to the lack of broadband and affordable housing, said ACRE chief executive Janice Banks.

"The government wants to devolve powers to communities so that they can have a greater say in their futures – but not every community is equipped to do this.

"That's where professional support organisations such as ACRE, the Plunkett Foundation and the Rural Services Network, among others, are invaluable."

The role of the ACRE network was twofold, said Ms Banks.

Firstly, it ensured the voices of rural communities were heard at the highest level in government.

Secondly, it helped communities to help themselves by finding innovative solutions to the challenges they face - whether saving the village shop or setting up a bulk oil-buying scheme.

"While the Commons report recognises that rural communities should not be seen as helpless victims whose woes can only be solved by others, it clearly states that the Government must ensure those communities who may lack the confidence and capacity to help themselves are given the support to do so."

A Defra spokesperson said the government wanted rural communities to be great places to live and work.

That was why it was investing in rural broadband, mobile coverage and providing funding to develop and grow rural businesses.

"The government is helping hardworking people all over the country who aspire to own a home through Help to Buy, which will help people get onto the housing ladder and boost housebuilding wherever there are housing shortages."

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