Rural England Meeting - 8th July 2013

Members:

DI (David Inman) ran through those invited to become members of Rural England and the responses so far. Local Government Association Rural Commission and the Rural Group of the Federation of Small Businesses Rural Section had also been approached.
DI noted that any commercial sponsors would probably be invited to send someone to the meetings. First Group and Calor (existing sponsors) would be invited to next meeting.
Margaret Clark noted she is currently a candidate for the Chair of the Plunkett Foundation.
 
Legal status:
DI noted the need for Rural England to have some status, not least to access funding.
A CIC was likely to be the simplest option at this stage and it could be changed later if necessary.
An Industrial & Provident Society (CLG) was also noted as a possibility.  BW would see if Peter Couchman had advice.
There was a need to proceed fairly quickly here and we would try to establish the favoured arrangement by November.
 
Rural Evidence Exchange:
DI and BW (Brian Wilson) explained the development of the REE initiative, led by a consortium of universities and consultants, but where RSN was a partner.
This was seen as complementary to Rural England.
It was noted that some of the rural evidence was not so much “lost” as unknown or forgotten about.
It was noted that some local authorities held useful research and date.
The sustainability of REE would be key.  Could it become a pay for service in due course?
It would be good if REE identified gaps in evidence and if the three involved universities helped to fill them.
It was agreed that, as lead academic on REE, Professor Nigel Curry should be invited to become a Rural England member.
 
Patrons:
DI explained the purpose and the difficulty of picking the right type of person.  Some peers had been approached on a cross party basis and some responses were awaited.
Suggestions included: Lord Ewen Cameron; Duke of Westminster; Princess Anne; Countess of Wessex; and Lord Don Curry and two authors of Rural White Papers John Gummer and John Prescott.
 
Rural England services:
Could approach potential sponsors with the range of services (not just one) to see which one appeals to them.
Opinion panel might be more of a sounding board.  Could be used to identify issues, that are then explored through call for evidence.
News service – could approach newer operators (like Virgin Media and BT instead of BBC), to see if they identify a niche in the market.  Are we trying to get news to a rural audience or to get rural news to the whole audience?  Could usefully talk to Tom Heap (BBC Rural Affairs Correspondent) to explore what type of service would work for him. David would discuss with Johann.
State of Rural Services – outsourcing companies might be a potential sponsor, though possible downsides to this too.
Postgraduate event – Nuffield Annual Conference is an ambitious existing version of this idea (not rural).  Could include universities from outside England or even outside UK.  Don’t need to restrict it to PhD students necessarily.  Might this service fit better with the REE proposal – DI to discuss with Nigel Curry.
Research topic – agreed should focus on just one topic per year.  Could discuss with Michael Winter and Mark Shucksmith.
Calls for evidence – other organisations with databases might help circulate them, even if they won’t hand over their own contact details.  The RCAN network has contacts for village hall committees.  Some local authorities have run surveys of rural businesses e.g. Herefordshire Council and ought to have e mail lists for them. LEP reps were suggested.
E-groups – Plunkett (Mike Perry) is about to take-on the hosting of the Fiery Spirits groups from Carnegie.  The experience is that successful e-groups can be resource intensive to run.  Might BT be willing to sponsor this?  Facebook and Twitter are worth thinking about.
Heart of the village – as well as Spar, another sponsor idea is Post Office Limited.  More generally, some foundations are still giving grants e.g. Esmee Fairburn, Tudor Trust and Nationwide.
 
Next meeting:
1.00 pm on Monday 11th November 2013. Venue to be determined but would be London.

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