LAST FEW DAYS!

With the closing date for registrations looming (30 August 2019) book now to attend our National Rural Conference, (in association with the CCRI), in Cheltenham on 3rd & 4th September) here. The keynote speaker for the conference is the Rt Hon Lord Foster of Bath, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy.

Budget Review - Implications for Rural Communities

The Treasury have provided us with a summary of announcements from the Budget 2018 which benefit Rural Areas.  
Below is a table showing these announcements set against the RSN Priorities.  There are also some comments from RSN in relation to whether they are rural initiatives or whether they benefit both rural and urban.  
RSN PRIORITIES
ANNOUNCEMENTS IN 2018 BUDGET
Public Sector Funding 

Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas

• Over £1 billion to support local authorities with social care


£240 million this year and £240 million next year for adult social care. This will make sure people can leave hospital when they are ready, into a care setting that best meets their needs. This will help the NHS to free up the beds it needs over winter.

RSN Comment: This is for both urban and rural areas. The distribution measures chosen will be important.

Barriers to Access

Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.

£200 million for fibre in rural areas
The Govt is committing £200m to pilot approaches to full fibre rollout in rural areas starting in primary schools and with vouchers for nearby homes and businesses.

Over £500 million for local roads

£420m will be provided for local roads maintenance (inc. potholes) in 2018/19 through a formula allocation for local authorities in England (outside London) on top of the £1bn spent every year from the Highways Maintenance Block.

RSN Comment: This is both urban and rural

• The Govt will create a £150m funding pot for a new competition for small improvements at local pinch points, which will tackle congestion. Successful bids will receive funding in 2021/22 and 2022/23.

RSN Comment: This is both urban and rural

• They will also invest £28.8bn in England’s largest roads – the biggest-ever single cash investment – allocating £28.8 billion to the National Roads Fund from 2020-25.

RSN Comment: This is both urban and rural

Future of Rural Areas

Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action, conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.

All communities can face issues in relation to low wages, poor access to health services, poor transport options and difficulties in accessing training and educational opportunities however in rural areas, due to its often remote location, these issues can become compounded, leading to Rural Vulnerability. Rural areas have a higher than average number of older residents and this figure is increasing rapidly. Public services need to work together to combat the issues relating to Rural Vulnerability to ensure that rural residents are not left disadvantage

Village halls: The Govt is committing £3m to help village halls in England with the cost of repairs. Village halls tend to have low incomes, and repair costs can be a significant burden. Budget announces a new grant scheme to help towards the costs of refurbishment.

Public toilets: The government is announcing a 100% business rates relief for both publicly and privately-owned standalone public lavatories in England. Up to 3,500 facilities could benefit from this measure.

Affordable housing: They will provide £8.5 million to support up to 500 parishes to allocate or permission land for homes sold at a discount, and will explore how to ensure these homes are offered first to people with a direct connection to the neighbourhood.

Housing Revenue Account cap: Abolish the cap that controls local authority borrowing for house building from 29 October. This will enable councils to increase building to around 10,000 homes per year.

RSN Comment: This benefits stock- holding Authorities

Trees: The Govt will provide up to £50 million to purchase carbon credits from landowners who plant qualifying woodland. This would provide for an estimated 10 million new trees over the next 30 years.

Health and Wellbeing

Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term.

RSN Comment: All of the following is both urban & rural

• Over £1 billion to support local authorities with social care

£240 million this year and £240 million next year for adult social care. This will make sure people can leave hospital when they are ready, into a care setting that best meets their needs. This will help the NHS to free up the beds it needs over winter.

£410 million more for adults and children’s social care next year. Where necessary, local councils should use this funding to ensure that adult social care pressures do not create additional demand on the NHS. Local councils can also use it to improve their social care offer for older people, people with disabilities and for children.

£55 million more this year for the Disabled Facilities Grant, to provide home aids and adaptations for children and adults with disabilities on low incomes, to live independently.

£84 million over 5 years for up to 20 local authorities to help more children to stay at home safely with their families. This investment builds on the lessons learned from successful innovation programmes in Hertfordshire, Leeds and North Yorkshire.

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