With the closing date for registrations looming (30 August 2019) book now to attend our National Rural Conference, (in association with the CCRI), in Cheltenham on 3rd & 4th September) here. The keynote speaker for the conference is the Rt Hon Lord Foster of Bath, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy.
• Rural Services Network
• Rural Services Partnership Limited
• Rural Services Network
An attendance list is attached as Appendix A to this note.
The Chair, Cllr Cecilia Motley welcomed members and noted apologies.
The minutes from the last RSN AGM held on 21st November, 2016 were received and approved.
[Present Chair Councillor Cecilia Motley]
Nominations for the existing Chair to continue in her position were accepted.
Nominations for the current, First Vice-Chair and all other Vice-Chairs to continue in position were supported. Members expressed their gratitude for all his work having noted that Cllr Strange had recently stood down from the Group. One vacancy was reported for a unitary council vice chair representative and Cllr Rob Waltham, North Lincolnshire volunteered for the position. This was agreed by members.
It was agreed that both would remain the same.
Members noted the date for the next RSN AGM being 12th November, 2018.
The Minutes of the last full meeting of the group were received and approved.
Members noted the minutes and the attached reports on (a) future fees levels (b) the Forward Budget and (c) Regional Meetings and Seminars.
The minutes and the recommendations in those Minutes and the reports referred to be approved.
The Chairman invited any members who had any concerns or issues to raise in respect of any of these matters to forward them to David Inman for consideration by the Executive at its January meeting.
Members noted the membership report from David Inman.
He outlined difficulties in retention and recruitment saying that membership was falling. Referring members to the benefits of being part of the Group, he stated that without its existence, rural matters would be very exposed and under-discussed. It was vital in taking forward important rural issues and the group agreed to encourage others to join and stick together.
Members noted details of the constitutional notice (being the same as required by the LGA) – but they expressed their worries that authorities see it as a discretionary service and might therefore withdraw their membership. This of course would impact themselves and their residents and therefore it was vital to hold the SIG together.
Members spread benefits of membership to peer councils as they see fit.
Members noted the current budget report which showed a positive balance being carried forward, despite some subscriptions still outstanding. Estimates will be taken to the January meeting for the Executive to agree and to determine the budget for following year.
Graham Biggs outlined short-term priorities as agreed by participants at the recent Brexit Rural Roundtable discussion. It was intended that a discussion would take place with the LGA and members noted that work around the review of the previous Rural White Paper had already been commissioned. Once priorities for discussion had been set, another meeting of the roundtable will be called.
Members received a presentation from Brian Wilson on the Survey of RSN local authorities to test findings in the State of Rural Services 2016 report.
He outlined the work which covered nine different service areas. (Full info and the report are available on RSN’s website). LAs had been asked to respond to the findings and he summarised the results of this consultation on the report. Overall, the general agreement was to headline key findings.
Members noted the conclusions of the survey. It was clear that the impact was the greatest concern for certain groups and they agreed that local community action needed support to enable and sustain it either via grants or direct funding.
Member comments included the following:
• Some problems are being created by not supporting current services and there needs to be alternative ways of accessing these – there is too much reliance on the same volunteers;
• Young adults and transport – does it include the fact that grants for disenfranchised young people had been taken away – subsidies have also been removed;
• If there are alternatives such as online banking – we should leave these out as it is vital to prioritise the work of RSN and instead, look at situations where there is no alternative available at all.
• Provision for 6th form students in rural areas is lacking - there is not enough demand to warrant 6th forms in many areas and so those that need it are having to travel much further.
Members noted the presentation and the Chairman thanked Mr Wilson for details of his study.
Presentation to be made available on RSN’s website.
The Chair welcomed Neil Parish MP, Chair of EFRA Select Committee and MP for Tiverton and Honiton.
Mr Parish outlined the work of the Select Committee, including looking at issues around Europe and putting various scenarios together to try and predict what may happen post Brexit. He acknowledged differences between figures around urban and rural areas and in particular being conscious of different needs such as farming. Members were invited to provide input for him to take forward.
• Had the issue of rural-proofing and rural weighting been recognised – Mr Parish MP agreed that to look into what has happened to it.
• Were any thoughts being given to overseeing environment improvement and development? The Minister acknowledged the importance of encouraging engagement with farmers and he hoped that the 25 year environment plan would work alongside farming and food.
• It was important to keep RDPE Programme type activity continuing, although Members realised that its benefits must be justified in order for this to be assured. Mr Parish stated that nothing should be taken for granted but that he would endeavour to ensure this;
• Many market towns are struggling and for a lot of rural areas their existence is very important. Members asked whether something might be done at a national level to help them survive. Mr Parish said that he would try and incorporate this into the Select Committee’s activity;
• The group mentioned that they would like to see a wider agenda to include better planning on sustainability and ways of enlisting farmers to get involved. Certainty was needed in terms of agricultural payment bills and was affecting confidence to invest;
• Difficult issues around planning permission needs addressing as current rulings interfere with developments. Mr Parish responded that strict control of the number of sites must be met to allow building with restrictions.
Cllr Motley thanked him for his time and an interesting discussion.
Chair to write to Neil Parish MP asking him to look into the issues raised.
1 Members then moved onto the affairs of the Rural Assembly beginning with item 14 and the Chair introduced Ian Sherriff, Academic Partnership Lead for Dementia Primary Care Group.
Members received a presentation which explored problems around dementia, noting current statistics.
Key points in the presentation included:
• Challenges around funding and increase in elderly population;
• Prevalent figures around abuse and neglect;
• Numbers of unpaid and under supported carers whose needs are not being met;
• Worrying evidence that diagnosis is occurring at a younger age;
• Research shows dementia is most severe in rural areas and that social isolation and loneliness can lead to the illness;
• Caring is key and involvement of the public.
Mr Sherriff outlined possible solutions, including the importance of integration. Members heard about how the Group collaborates with key organisations to encourage this and they noted existing systems which assist, for example using GPs and monitoring systems to ensure peoples safety.
Details of data and presentation are available on the RSN website.
Apologies were received from Kerry Booth.
Members noted the presentation which headlined the following information:
• 71 % of attendees were from member authorities – the rest from other organisations.
• 8% of attendees were from government departments.
• Feedback included support of the location, more informal networking and interaction opportunities and more workshops; less political content as it came across as having political agendas.
Mr Biggs agreed that these comments would be addressed in order to work out the format for the next conference. Members noted that the date would follow in due course.
Slides to be made available on RSN’s website.
Mr Biggs stated that the next Sounding Board Survey would be in respect of Affordable Housing issues.
Members noted meeting dates for 2018 and were informed that most of these would take place back at the LGA, 18 Smith Square. The next meeting on 29 January however will take place at Westminster Archive, Centre.
The full list of dates and venues for 2018 is as follows:
Schedule of RSN Executive Meeting Dates and Venues 2018
Monday 15th January RSN Executive Eaton Room, LGA, Smith Square, London
Monday 5th March RSN Executive Smith Square 1, LGA, Smith Square, London
Monday 11th June RSN Executive Eaton Room, LGA, Smith Square, London
Monday 24th September RSN Executive (also RSP Ltd Board of Directors) City of Westminster Archives Centre, London
Schedule of Main Meeting Dates and Venues 2018
Monday 29th January SPARSE Rural Sub SIG City of Westminster Archives Centre, London
Monday 9th April Rural Social Care & Health Group & Rural Assembly Sub SIG Smith Square 1 & 2, LGA, Smith Square, London
Monday 25th June SPARSE Rural Sub SIG Smith Square 1 & 2, LGA, Smith Square, London
Monday 12th November AGM meetings City of Westminster Archives Centre, London
A member suggestion that the radio programme – the Archers - be approached to include reference to rural issues as a key platform attracting many listeners.
There was no other business.
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