RSN Executive Meeting - 19 September 2011

Present:-  Cecilia Motley (Senior Vice Chair); Robert Heseltine (Vice Chair); Julian German (Vice Chair);  John Birtwistle (Transport);  Stuart Horne (Business)

Apologies:- Roger Begy (Chairman); Hilary Carrick, Mac Cotterell


Officers:- Graham Biggs ; David Inman; Dan Bates


To download the agenda, click here

To download these minutes, click here


1    Minutes from the Last Executive (23rd May 2011) (See Attachment 1)
The meeting had been a very full one looking at the canvas of the Group and considering how and where it could expand without a fee increase.  It was felt necessary to give members the fullest possible service at this difficult time.

2    Minutes from last Main Meeting (4th July) (See Attachment 2)
The wider remit recommended by the Executive had been approved by the full meeting and had now been incorporated in the menu and calendar being considered under a later item.

3    Membership
Fall in membership had been anticipated and while this had occurred it was not quite as bad as had been feared. However discussions were due with a number of members who had put in a rolling notice which meant budgeting was difficult particularly for 2011-12. It was felt it was a time for greater joint working as opposed to isolation but clearly those wishing to keep their options open needed to be convinced of that.

4    Budget for 2011/12
The Budget sheet was circulated. The budget was in a reasonable state.  Some income from SPARSE Rural and RSP authorities was still outstanding and was being chased but provided this was received the position in the second half of the financial year should be tenable. Expenditure on travelling however had increased with the widening of group activity and this would have to be closely monitored. The monies in the separate Fairer Funding Account had now been largely spent.

5    Budget for 2012/13
The Chief Executive presented the first draft for the following year.  It reflected resignations and anticipated resignations and cuts had therefore had to be made.  The main threads for the network however currently remained intact. It was agreed that this budget would be presented to the November AGM.

6    The Fairer Funding Campaign (See Attachment 6 and Attachment 7 and Attachment 8 and Attachment 9 and Attachment 10 and Attachment 11)
The second phase of this meeting was with the Working Group Treasurers and would therefore deal with this issue in considerably more detail.  However the position reached by the LG Futures report was outlined and consideration of the position achieved by a narrowing of the peer head of population rural-urban government grant gap by 10% was also discussed.  It was felt that that this should be a long term aspiration and further incremental work towards it should be undertaken but it was recognised it was probably too ambitious an “ask” for the current consultation exercise.  The second meeting and the Leaders Group meeting on the 23rd would establish the formal request to Government.

7    Programme for Seminars and Forums (See Attachment 3)
This had begun to operate and had started well. Based normally on Universities across the rural regions there would be 7 events running between now and next June as the Network sought to give meeting and seminar opportunities closer to member authorities/organisations. The sessions would be largely based on dealing with 6 announced DEFRA priorities and with a University local initiative.

8    E Forums
As a Network the organisation was considered well placed to arrange such events. These could be based on topics and/or individual services. An experimental arrangement of one event per month would be introduced to measure the required manpower commitment and the balance of expert chairmanship that was recognised as a requirement.

9    Relationship with DEFRA
A reply had been received from Sarah McAdam in response to the Network offer of assistance. Two meetings had previously been held.

The letter set up a bilateral relationship with the Rural Communities Policy unit at DEFRA.  They will use our network for Calls for Evidence when necessary, comment and assist where they can with the Annual Report on the State of Rural Services Report and attend and input into the RSN seminars and forums as well as put news items in the Digest and Hinterland publications. They will have a one on one Annual Meeting with RSN Officers normally in January.  

It was very much hoped that this relationship would facilitate direct access for our members to this important DEFRA team.

10    Membership Fees for 2012/13
The recommendation to the Annual General Meeting would be that the Sparse Rural subscription remained unaltered for the third consecutive year and that the RSP subscription be lowered from £520 + VAT to £495 + VAT.

11     Other Annual General Meeting Issues
None were identified. The APPG Chair would be attending.

12     RSP Update Report
The meeting received a report on the intended extension of the offer in the Individual Service side of the Grouping where it was hoped to establish meetings of individual sets of rural providers.  Preliminary meetings had taken place with individuals in respect of Police, Fire, Housing, Transport (with Health planned).The Executive would be kept updated on outcomes as they occurred.

13     The Leaders meeting (See Attachment 4 and Attachment 5)
The first leader’s meeting was being held on the 23rd of September. The Fairer Funding campaign and Business Rates consultation would be at the core of this meeting.  It was hoped to hold such meetings annually at the LGG Annual Meeting. The need for ‘strategic’ and core agendas was recognised.

14     Publicity
An initiative would be introduced seeking to facilitate member rural press releases.

15     Federation of Small Businesses; NFU
An initiative had been undertaken to seek to develop closer working relationships with these two bodies.  The current position was reported and the Executive would be kept updated on developments.

16     Age Alliance
The Network had been invited by Age UK to become a member of this newly created Forum. It was decided to accept this invitation.

17     2012-13 Menu and Calendar
Following the last main meeting this had been revisited.  The Network now offered a total of 21 Services and the revised documentation was circulated and approved.

18     South Hams Letter re second homes
The responses received were considered and it was decided the matter would be placed on the Agenda for the AGM.

19     Rural Unemployment and the Economy
Members were keen for the network to do as much as it practically could in this area.  It was felt that, outside of Defra, now that the CRC was being wound-down, there was a hole in general consideration of issues in this area.


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