1. Attendance & Apologies
Cllr Cecilia Motley (Chair, Rural Services Network and Shropshire Council) welcomed members to the meeting.
Kerry Booth (Rural Services Network) outlined the structure of the discussion which would cover the main issues concerning the Local Government Finance Provisional Settlement and SPARSE’s response. Apologies taken as read.
2. Notes from the previous SPARSE Rural meeting
The minutes from the previous meeting held on 12 October were approved.
Graham Biggs MBE (Chief Executive, Rural Services Network) updated the group on progress with discussion on the planning white paper and changes to the current planning system. Members noted that the Rural Services APPG has an imminent meeting with the Housing Minister to discuss rural issues.
Mr Biggs also informed members that the APPG meeting with the Digital Minister on Digital infrastructure had taken place and that agreement had been reached to send a letter from the APPG Chair to the Minister regarding confusion around rollout of digital capable broadband following the 2020 Spending Review. The minutes were approved.
3. Notes from the previous RSN Executive meeting
Mr Biggs referred to recent government White Papers and Policy proposals and assured Members that these are being reviewed with the intention of providing an overall headline rural analysis.
The group noted details of DfT’s call for evidence to inform a future Rural Transport Strategy. Transport Authority members have been consulted for their comments and there are already concerns that implications for rural areas of the present situation are not being considered. The Chair agreed that this continues to be an issue, given limited transport in rural areas. Members felt that this point will need to be made quite strongly in the response and reflect the importance of revitalising rural areas.
The minutes of the meeting were noted
4. Provisional Settlement 2021-2022
Members received a presentation by Graham Biggs on the Provisional Settlement for 2021/22. Slides from Pixel, which showed the rural perspective and the national position, were included to further inform the discussion.
|Please note that full notes outlining what was discussed in this item are available only to SPARSE members of the RSN. If you are a SPARSE member of RSN and would like to view the full notes, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title of this meeting and date and a request for full notes and presentation, and we will forward you this information.|
Mr Biggs discussed inequalities around funding and allocation of spending power and outlined comparisons between predominantly rural and urban areas. Funding is massively lower for rural areas.
Members noted the composition of the provisional settlement. It was clear from the evidence that rural areas will once again be held down and will not be levelled up until there is a fair distribution of the resources Government provides to support local government services.
The Chair said that she felt the rural services delivery grant is used to placate and there is a need to demonstrate that this is a tiny amount compared to the inequity that has built up over the years.
Members were invited to comment. Cllr Motley thanked Mr Biggs and colleagues for an interesting and informative discussion.
5. Any Other Business
Members were invited to raise any other business they wished to discuss.
Cllr Yvonne Peacock referred to problems around community led housing and difficulties in getting housing funding unless you a social letting agent.
The Secretariat referred to discussion on the subject by previous speakers and agreed to try and source a helpful contact.
Action: Kerry Booth (Rural Services Network) to provide contacts to Cllr Peacock.
Cllr Motley thanked colleagues for their attendance and members were reminded to login separately for the meeting being held in the afternoon.
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