Lockdown 3.0

We are still here at the RSN for all of our customers and partners. We remain working from home, ready to support you all to ensure that the rural voice is heard at a national level. We'd love to hear from you if you have any queries or want to get in touch admin@sparse.gov.uk

Rural Beacon - Winter 2020

Welcome to the first edition of the Rural Beacon from the Rural Services Network!
We are sending you this newsletter as you are one of the nominated Members for your Local Authority. We will be sending four of these publications a year to keep you updated with the work of the RSN.

Who is the Rural Services Network?

For those of you that aren’t aware of the RSN and our work, we are a Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association. 

We are the national champion for Rural Services, and we work on behalf of our member organisations, ensuring that people in rural areas have a strong voice.

We have 104 Local Authorities in our Sparse Membership and 17 in Rural Assembly Membership.  In addition, we have over 200 organisations in our wider Rural Services Partnership.  We work hard to represent the views of our member organisations along with sharing best practice and keeping them up to date with all things rural.

To find out more about our organisation click here

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What are we campaigning for?

The Rural Bulletin is the weekly periodical to read to find out the latest rural news and issues that could affect your communities and local authorities.

The last few weeks have been all about the Spending Review and the impact on rural services of decisions about where to allocate funding.  We know that on average rural residents pay more council tax than urban residents, due to the historic underfunding of rural areas by successive Governments.  We were disappointed therefore to see that the increase in spending power that will come next year announced by the Chancellor, will be made up primarily by increasing council tax…putting rural residents at a financial disadvantage. Read more on our response to the Spending Review here.

We’ve been campaigning on behalf of rural areas about the proposed changes to the planning system and the Planning White Paper, the delivery of rural affordable housing would be catastrophically affected if the Governments plans to change criteria for the delivery of affordable housing on small sites were to be implemented and we’ve been campaigning on this key issue.  We’ve also released some research along with key partner organisations on the benefits that investing in rural housing would have on the rural economy.  Click here to read more about this research which was featured in The Guardian at this link.


Join us at one of our events online!

We run a varied programme of events throughout the year that members of the RSN are eligible to attend for free as part of their membership, from seminars to big group meetings and networking opportunities.  We also host the National Rural Conference and members get discounted access to this prestigious event.

To ensure that you are not missing out, find out more about what’s on offer!

Seminar Programme - We are about to launch our seminar programme for 2021 which will include 9 seminars focussed on key topics affecting rural communities. In 2020 we have had 340 attendees to our Seminar Programme which is fantastic, that equates to 680 hours spent sharing best practice and learning from rural experts.


How do we work with you?

We have a number of ways of engaging with our member organisations to share best practice and enable networking across organisations with a rural interest.

As a member of the RSN, your membership enables you to attend these events, often for free!

Group Meetings - We host 2 Sparse and 2 Rural Assembly meetings a year which the nominated member for the local authority is invited to attend. The Sparse meeting is only for those holding a SPARSE membership of the RSN and at these meetings, we focus on Fairer Funding for Local Government and the Local Government Finance Settlement.  At the wider Rural Assembly meetings which both Sparse and Rural Assembly members can attend, we consider a wider range of issues such as Rural Connectivity, Rural Housing, the Rural Economy and Rural Transport.  These used to take place in London but are now online meetings and we've seen the number of attendees grow by about 300%!!! It's great to see so many of you and we would welcome more at our future meetings!  Click here for the 2021 Schedule of meetings.

Rural Economy and Rural Health and Social Care Group Meetings – We host two of each of these meetings a year to further explore the specialist topics and share best practice. We also use these meetings to gain feedback from our member organisations to help shape our national campaigning role.

National Rural Conference – Members are usually able to access a reduced rate to attend the National Rural Conference.

We were delighted that so many of you were able to join us at our National Rural Conference in September 2020.  As can be expected, it had a very different feel to the normal event and took place online! This year the conference was free of charge for members to attend due to the special circumstances. We had almost 400 delegates attend 8 different sessions throughout the week with a high number of Local Authorities represented.  Below is an image of the webinar on Rural Connectivity with our speakers, on screen along with key RSN representatives.  You can see more about the week of events at this link.

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Individual Council Meetings - We will be starting in April 2021 a series of individual meetings between us and key members of your local authority. This will be your opportunity to ask us about the work that we are doing on your behalf, and also for us to find out the key issues in your local area, to ensure that we are fully representing your concerns on a national level.

How do we represent you?

The RSN works hard to represent our member organisations by representing the rural voice in Parliament.  

Rural areas make up almost 20% of the population, and it is vital that the views of those delivering services and representing rural areas are heard in Parliament. We are more powerful when we work together as a group to raise the rural voice up the Agenda.

DEFRA Rural Impact Stakeholder Forum 

During the pandemic, we were invited to be part of the DEFRA Rural Impact Stakeholder Forum, meeting weekly with key rural organisations and DEFRA to share up to date information about the situation in rural communities.  These meetings continue to take place every two weeks.  Thank you for all of the effort that your Councils put into responding to some surveys that we did during this time, to find out how effectively the economic support measures put in place by the government were working in rural areas, and exploring further issues of Domestic Abuse and Homelessness in the pandemic. 

All Party Parliamentary Group 

The RSN provides the Secretariat for The Rural Services All Party Parliamentary Group, Chaired by Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP and have met 5 times this year with the following issues considered:

  • January 2020 – AGM, Vulnerability Day and the work programme for 2020
  • July 2020 – Issues relating to Rural Connectivity and Rural Bus services with John Birtwistle from First Bus Group, and Revitalising Rural document (Sects
  • September 2020 - Comprehensive Spending Review Response with outside observers for example NFU, ACRE, Calor, Countryside Alliance, CPRE
  • October 2020 - Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury to discuss Comprehensive Spending Review
  • November 2020 - Rural Digital Connectivity with Matt Warman MP (Minister for Digital Infrastructure) and Gareth Elliott from Shared Rural Network

House of Lords Inquiry

The RSN has been invited to respond to the House of Lords Covid19 Committee on the impact of the increasing reliance on digital technology on the wellbeing of rural communities.  Thank you to everyone that responded to our consultation to help us form our response.

Government Consultations

We have responded to a number of Government Consultations and Inquiries in recent months, ensuring that the views of rural areas are represented and considered by Government decision makers.

  • Planning White Paper
  • Comprehensive Spending Review
  • Changes to the Planning System Consultation
  • Plan for Jobs

We have also done some work with our members understanding more about the Green Book and the way that decisions are being made.


How do we keep you up to date?

Rural Bulletin - As a member of the RSN, you should be receiving a weekly copy of the Rural Bulletin.  This publication has up to date rural news, information about the work of the RSN and key information which will be useful to you working in a rural area.

If you have any suggestions of things you would like to see included or if you are not receiving this and would like to, please email kerry.booth@sparse.gov.uk

As your local authority is a member of the RSN, Members and Officers are all entitled to receive the Rural Bulletin, we do have a number of contacts at your authority on our mailing lists but if there is a particular contact that isn’t currently receiving the bulletin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Our Website - We have a wide range of information on our website that you may find interesting as a ‘Rural Champion’ for your area. Click here to find out more.

The Member Insights area of the website provides a range of statistics available at your local authority area so that you can see how well your area is doing compared to other rural areas.  This includes analysis of the Local Economy, Rural Housing and Travel and Transport.  Click here to access the Member Insights Section

Please follow us on social media if you use it to find out the latest about our campaigns and upcoming events. 

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