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Members noted apologies for this part of the meeting.
Mr David Inman (Rural Services Network) welcomed members to the meeting.
The Chair, Cllr Cecilia Motley (RSN), had sent apologies.
Cllr Robert Heseltine (North Yorkshire CC) substituted in her absence.
The minutes of the last meetings of the Rural Assembly and the RSN AGM were both accepted.
The minutes of the last Executive meeting were noted.
Mr Graham Biggs (Chief Executive, RSN) asked members to note upcoming regional meetings for information.
Members understood the benefits of trying to link in with the Rural Strategy Campaign as a means for greater discussion about regional variations in opportunities and examples of best practice. It was noted that the next one would be held - for the first time - in the South East and the agenda would include looking at vulnerability from a range of service providers. Members were encouraged to attend this event on 29 April 2019.
Despite poor attendance levels when held previously at the same venue, the next seminar would be held in Yorkshire in December. Members recognised difficulties around interest at that particular time of year.
Mr Biggs informed members of current work around engagement which included elected members.
The Rural Strategy campaign was launched in March and several individuals have already signed up. Members noted significant dates regarding the launch of Lords Select Committee Reports and he informed them that he was confident that this will be positive. He has been invited to meet Lord Gove and John Gardiner on 30 April to discuss the strategy.
Members noted details of recent meetings and plans to hold regional roadshows working closely with ACRE to look at ways of identifying issues that need to be addressed within a rural template strategy and to gain support for one. It was agreed that this is a very important piece of work and members were encouraged to engage in the process.
Members noted individuals already signed up for engagement and acknowledged the challenge in raising the profile and publicity when Brexit is at the foreground of all.
They raised several points:
They agreed that discussion should continue to be a feature on all forthcoming agendas.
David Inman informed members that over 40 MPs have stated their interest at being involved – although obviously no progress has been made as yet because their own agendas are too hectic at the present moment in time.
Members noted the recent success of the rural vulnerability day. It was felt though that the agenda was slightly too ambitious, however it proved popular by all who attended and will continue to be a repeated event. Members were asked to note that it will likely be held each February.
The Group received a presentation from Mr Brian Wilson, highlighting details of the State of the Rural Services Report 2018 https:ruralengland.org. A key point found within the analysis was that rurality was rarely an explicit consideration in assessing cost and safety factors.
Several gaps were identified in the evidence base. Mr Wilson informed the group that the launch went well and there had been quite a lot of media interest in the report. More work would be done to ensure that contacts extend exposure to the report amongst their own networks.
Members referred to examples within their own areas where they had experienced reduced funding to services areas, including subsidised bus routes, youth clubs etc. Digital connectivity is still far behind in rural areas.
The Chair thanked Mr Wilson for an interesting and informative discussion.
Mr Inman reminded members of the background to the issue of this statement.
Colleagues noted the report which highlighted how it is becoming more difficult for people in rural areas to access services. The number of those vulnerable in these areas is increasing and it is important that these services are brought together to devise systems to tackle this issue.
The statement will be issued annually.
The group noted the balance position at the present time - £12-15k carried forward to 2019/20.
Invoices for membership are in the process of being sent out. A key disappointment is that the new unitary authority of Dorset Council will not be renewing.
The report was received.
Members noted that the subject of the next survey is the economy and is due to be sent out in approximately a month’s time. Following that will be one on cuts to services and finally, there will be one on health and wellbeing.
All data collected will feed into the strategy process.
Members noted the draft programme for the conference. A Keynote speaker for the first day will be Lord Gardiner, unless there are any unforeseen changes. Lord Foster will also be a keynote speaker.
It was suggested that Alison Farmer Associates, Cambridge, be invited to provide a presentation on Planning in sensitive landscapes. Cllr Peter Stevens agreed to correspond with Mr Biggs with further details.
The Group noted addition suggestions for future consideration.
The draft programme was agreed.
Mr Biggs provided an update on the work of specific Service Groups and Network Bodies.
Members acknowledged that all initiatives began with RSN and therefore engagement is key to progress.
There was no other business.
The Chair thanked everyone for their input and the meeting was closed.
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