New leadership for rural group in Parliament

For immediate release

Thursday,  1 February 17

Meeting in Parliament on 30th January the All - Party Group on Rural Services elected new Co-Chairs, Philip Dunne, MP (Ludlow Constituency) and Rebecca Pow, MP (Taunton Deane Constituency).

Speaking after the event the Co-Chairs said: "We are pleased to have been appointed to lead this group of parliamentarians at this time.

"Rural Services generally are very stretched and many are being centralised whilst at the same time there are severe reductions in public transport across rural areas making access to services more difficult for many rural residents.

"Just last week we co-hosted the first Rural Vulnerability Day in Parliament when we were able to discuss a range of issues impacting on rural people and rural communities.

"Through the All-Party Group we will be able to investigate many of these issues in more detail and present our findings to Ministers.

"Importantly, we will also look at examples of innovative responses being introduced by the service providers." 

Graham Biggs, MBE, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network which provides the secretariat to the All-Party Group said: "We are delighted that Philip Dunne and Rebecca Pow have agreed to lead this important group.

"We have worked with both of them in the past and look forward to doing so again.

"They both have great knowledge and experience of rural services issues from their own constituencies and both are committed to ensuring that rural issues are given due attention."

Media contact:

Graham Biggs MBE
RSN chief executive
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197

Editor's notes:

[1] The Rural Services Network is the only non-governmental organisation representing the interests of rural service providers and the communities that they serve. It involves currently some 154 Local Authorities and over 100 other service providers. It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group. For details, visit

Our Key Messages:

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 therefore 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.

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.

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.

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.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.