A new leadership for rural?

Blog Post by Kerry Booth, Chief Executive Designate of RSN

As we prepare again at the RSN to write to the new group of Ministers, setting out the case for rural and explaining yet again how rural have been historically underfunded by successive governments, I wonder what will be different this time.

I tried to be optimistic with ‘I’m a rural MP’ Liz Truss, but saw nothing in those 41 days to suggest she really understood the challenges facing rural areas. Rural Councils receive less funding per head than urban councils, leaving them under pressure to deliver statutory services such as social services, from ever reducing budgets and leaving less for discretionary services.  We must remember that discretionary services are not just the 'nice to have' services, they include libraries, public transport and economic development, all essentials for rural communities.

Rural areas have seen services cut, and have made efficiencies along with every other council, but from the position of a smaller pot of funds to start with. 

Recent research commissioned by the RSN, shows that rural areas are facing a triple whammy of high energy costs and high fuel costs from lower than average locally earned wages. 

Residents in rural areas will be struggling in the coming months, and local councils need to be in a position where they can help to support the rural economy and ensure that local residents can access affordable housing.

Turning to the new Prime Minister, he certainly should understand the issues as he represents a very rural constituency, furthermore I get the impression he will make decisions based on evidence.  I am slightly more hopeful that he may see the evidence that time and time again rural are disadvantaged, in the local government funding formula, in the way that allocations are made through the Green Book process, through the way that the Levelling Up White Paper uses metrics that disadvantage rural areas to know that he has to take action to ensure that our rural areas are treated fairly and not left behind.

The Rural Services Network is the national champion for rural services, and we will continue to represent our member organisations by engaging with the new Ministers and Prime Minister.  We want to ensure that they fully understand the challenges in rural areas that a lack of transport options, limited access to affordable housing, the social care challenges, lower wages and poor connectivity can bring, to finally make a difference for our rural communities.


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