The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Community Ownership: Empowering Rural Communities in England

Plunkett UK, a charity supporting community ownership across the UK, has released its 2024 Impact Report, highlighting the transformative effect of community-owned businesses in rural areas. In this article, the Rural Services Network focuses on the impact of these businesses in rural communities in England.

Resilient Rural Businesses in England

Plunkett UK has a long history of promoting community ownership, with a particular focus on rural areas. According to the 2024 Impact Report, there are now 787 community-owned businesses trading across the UK, with 32 new entities opening in 2023. In England, these businesses serve as lifelines for remote communities, providing essential services and fostering economic growth.

Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, community-owned businesses in England have shown remarkable resilience. The report notes a five-year survival rate of 99%, significantly higher than the national average for small and medium-sized enterprises. This resilience is a testament to the commitment and hard work of the people behind these businesses, as well as the support they receive from Plunkett UK.

Fostering Local Economies

Community-owned businesses play a crucial role in bolstering local economies in rural England. Plunkett UK's research shows that for every £1 spent with a community business, 56p stays within the local economy, compared to just 40p for large private sector firms. This emphasis on local sourcing and circular economies helps strengthen rural communities.

These businesses not only provide goods and services, but also create employment and volunteering opportunities. The report estimates that over 4,000 people are employed by community-owned businesses, with 25,000 volunteers contributing their time and skills. This workforce includes individuals who often face barriers to traditional employment, demonstrating the inclusive nature of community ownership.

Community-Owned Businesses and Environmental Sustainability

Community-owned businesses in rural England are also leading the way in environmental sustainability. The 2024 Impact Report reveals that 96% of these businesses took some form of climate action last year, with many focusing on reducing waste and implementing energy-saving measures.

One inspiring example is Cleve Archers, a community business in South Gloucestershire that has embarked on a project to develop an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly sports venue. This initiative includes solar panels, tree planting, and wildflower meadows, demonstrating the commitment of community-owned businesses to sustainable practices.

Promoting Social Inclusion and Diversity

Plunkett UK's work extends beyond economic and environmental impact, with a strong emphasis on social inclusion and diversity. The report highlights how community-owned businesses in rural England are creating safe and welcoming spaces for all through initiatives that offer a range of services, including arts facilities, rental spaces, and cafés, fostering a sense of community and inclusion.

The impact of community-owned businesses in rural England is evident in the way they bring people together, promote equity, and offer opportunities for individuals who might otherwise be isolated or marginalised. These community businesses play a vital role in strengthening rural communities.

You can read the full report HERE.

Kerry Booth, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network

Plunkett UK’s impact report is incredibly encouraging, highlighting the success and resilience of community-owned businesses in rural areas. It underscores the vital role small businesses play in sustaining local economies and delivering essential services to rural communities. With their commitment to social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and local growth, these businesses offer a blueprint for a thriving rural future. Their impact is a testament to the dedication and resourcefulness of rural communities.

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