Rural Services Network responds to House of Lords

For immediate release 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Rural Services Network [1] has responded to a House of Lords report which recommends that government responsibility for rural issues should be transferred away from DEFRA [2].

RSN chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said:

“We welcome such a thoughtful, detailed and hard-hitting report – and we agree that closure of the Commission for Rural Communities was to the detriment of rural communities.

“In particular, the Commission's unbiased research and reports which provided informed opinion as to the potential impacts of policies are sorely missed.

“We agree with this report when it says that the loss of the Commission has diminished the Government’s understanding of rural societies, economies and communities.

"Ensuring that the needs of rural communities are recognised and addressed must be a real priority across the whole of Government – not just by DEFRA."

"As such, we support the report's recommendation that responsibility for "rural proofing" government policy should move to the Cabinet Office to give it the prominence it deserves.

"But we are not wholly convinced by the recommendation that responsibility for rural policy should be transferred from DEFRA to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

"While we appreciate the reasons for the recommendation, we are concerned that rural policy issues could be swamped or sidelined by the ministry’s very wide remit."

"We consider they could sit better with rural proofing in the Cabinet Office."

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Editors notes:

[1] The Rural Services Network is the only non-governmental organisation representing the interests of rural service providers and the communities that they serve. It involves currently some 154 Local Authorities and over 100 other service providers. It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group. For details, visit

[2] The House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 published its report on Thursday (22 March). It concludes that the Government has diminished the resources given to departments and bodies which protect the UK's natural environment and promote the needs of rural communities. Full details are available at

Media contact:

Graham Biggs
RSN Chief Executive
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197

Our Key Messages:

Public Sector Funding
Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and therefore pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.

Barriers to Access
Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.

Future of Rural Areas
Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.

Health and Wellbeing
Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term. 


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