If your organisation is a member of the RSN through the SPARSE, Rural Assembly, RSP or RHCA you can book your free place at the National Rural Conference now and join rural specialists to debate key issues. We have over 600 bookings already so book your place now!
The RSP has been working in partnership with the Post Office for over a year now and is keen to support their work with 28 UK banks, to ensure that their customers continue to have free access to everyday banking services.
Post Office signs new agreement with 28 UK banks to provide everyday banking services
The Post Office has announced a new agreement with 28 UK banks to ensure that millions of their customers continue to have national, free access to everyday banking services.
Our branches remain where banks no longer exist. With 6000 branches in rural areas customers of UK banks have grown to rely on our everyday banking services. In fact, last year over 28 per cent of people visited our branches to withdraw cash. We processed over 130 million transactions for UK banks last year.
We do not seek to replicate a bank in all its functions, but we do seek to support communities left behind when the banks close. So, the services we offer such as cash withdrawals and cheque and cash deposits are a real lifeline to people living in rural areas. Furthermore, we’re there for small businesses who are able to deposit their day’s takings at our branches.
We recognise the hard work our Postmasters put in day in day out in serving customers across the country. That’s why we launched a review of postmaster remuneration. We are already passing on the increases in remuneration for processing cash deposits resulting from our new agreement with 28 UK banks. In addition, we have increased the fixed payments made to community branches. These are just the first steps in ensuring our postmasters are fairly rewarded for providing vital services to communities across the UK, and in establishing a stronger partnership between us for the future.
When we announced our agreement with the banks in early October, a lot of attentions was focused on Barclay’s decision not to allow their customers withdraw cash at our 11,500 branches across the UK. We were of course delighted that they changed their mind. Barclays fully re-joined the twenty-seven other UK banks in offering their customers access to our full range of everyday banking services, including cash withdrawals, cash and cheques deposits and balance enquiries.
Whether rural or urban, our branches offer a personal, secure face to face service for more elderly and vulnerable customers who may feel uncomfortable withdrawing cash on the street. They also have the convenience of doing some shopping or paying bills at the same time at our branches. Given the acceleration of bank branch closures in rural areas over recent years and the rise of fee-charging ATM machines, we are committed to remaining at the heart of communities across the UK.
As a new member we are keen to promote Lantra’s work, in particular their Winter Services Operations training course, which is very relevant with winter soon to be upon us.
Keeping the Country Moving come rain or shine!
If, like me, you found yourself driving up the M5 one sunny day in late September, perhaps you too were shocked to encounter small convoys of bright yellow gritters and snow ploughs en route to depots across the country in readiness for their winter duties.
This experience, coupled with news headlines predicting the return of the beast from the east and the severest weather for years certainly put winter on my radar. But, for thousands of organisations and their dedicated staff who keep our strategic road network operational in all weathers, we know winter is NEVER really off their radar.
Anyone with responsibility for planning or delivering ‘bad winter weather’ services, be it a Local Authority, contractor or individual operative, understands the massive costs and potential disruption of getting things wrong and with a £16,000 price tag just to deploy a gritter, failure is not really an option.
And whilst fleets of state-of-the-art vehicles that blow, plough and grit their way through the toughest of conditions are essential tools in the battle, it’s the people who prepare, maintain and operate this specialist kit 24/7, who are the true heroes.
Here at Lantra, we appreciate having vehicles off the road, even for a short period, isn’t an option. That’s why we’ve worked with industry to develop our new Winter Service Operations training course. It’s been designed to support operatives in the preparation, maintenance and operation of all current vehicle types, incorporating modular units to give maximum flexibility. This approach has enabled us to both maintain our quality standards and offer competitive prices compared to those charged by City & Guilds.
As well as a mandatory health & safety awareness module, there are four optional modules, all practically assessed, covering service vehicles and equipment up to 3500kg; from 3500kg to 7500kg; over 7500kg; and snow blowers. Once completed, successful operatives will receive a Lantra Skills Card listing the completed modules.
We’re confident that our course structure will appeal to a wide range of customers and will not only drive up standards but may even motivate some, such as Local Authorities, to get themselves registered as an approved Lantra training Provider and deliver their own in-house training.
If you’re interested, please contact me, Alec Hands at Lantra on 02476 696996.
For more info about Lantra https://www.lantra.co.uk/about-us
The RSP continues to recognise the exceptional work of its members, in particular that of CSW, who are also an active member of the RHCA. Their work with young people makes really interesting reading, take a look below at their #Focus5 project.
Being 17, with complex needs and living in rural England
Rural living conjures up images of rustic charm, fresh air and an idyllic lifestyle. With inspiring views and a strong sense of community, it is easy to see why people swap the pace of the city for something a little slower. With all this space comes a freedom that’s hard to buy.
Unfortunately for some of the young people we work with on #Focus5, countryside living can intensify existing issues. With no car and a reliance on public transport the expanses of the countryside can soon become an isolated place.
This was the case for one young person from Curry Rivel, a remote village in Somerset. With a population of around 2000 Curry Rivel sits 12 miles away from Taunton and 14 miles away from Bridgewater. Living with her mum and therapy pets, our young person has physical and mental health needs. The daily challenges of living with these has been exacerbated by where she lives.
We are really proud of the progress our young person has made. She has shown commitment to working with #Focus5 and whilst this has been challenging, she is now taking control of her life. Her keyworker has helped her to be more organised and to engage more with the wider community. By better understanding her strengths and skills, our young person has managed to push herself, even when life has felt tough. With improved life skills, our young person has a more “can do” approach and is now in the process of gaining Maths and English qualifications. This will lead on to more education and she now has a CV for when she’s ready for work.
The #Focus 5 project provides unique, flexible, one-to-one support to young people aged 15-18 across Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and Somerset, who may be struggling to move forwards in life. We’re funded to support those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or at risk of becoming so. Funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund we help young people take steps back into education, employment or training. We encourage development of the '5' key skills identified by employers as being gateways to employment: Communication - Customer Service - Organisation - Problem Solving - Teamwork.
With a new sense of self, we hope our young person from Curry Rivel can start to enjoy the freedoms of living in rural England.
For more information about #Focus5 visit www.cswfocus5.co.uk
#Focus5 is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.
The RSP is keen to highlight the work undertaken by Ian Sherriff B.E.M. Academic lead for Dementia Plymouth University faculty of Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Human Sciences and Mrs Liz Hitchins, Chairman, Brixton Parish Council, Devon.
It is widely acknowledged that there are groups of people at risk living in the countryside can experience a wide range of issues including: loneliness and isolation; lack of transport; poverty; fuel poverty; broadband connectivity issues; inability to access health and social care and inadequate living conditions. The lack of appropriate services in rural communities makes life more difficult for people at risk, individuals with dementia and those who care for them.
The search for ways to enrich the quality of life for people at risk and those affected by dementia is a constant and complex one. The project chosen out of the fourteen from the Prime Minister’s Rural Dementia Task and Finish Group provide innovative solutions to these issues is the Dementia Friendly Parishes around the Yealm, South Devon.
The 10,000 parish and town councils in England with their 100,000 local councillors are the first tier of government. In rural areas, they provide neighbourhoods, villages and towns with a democratic voice and a structure for taking local action to influence, participate and directly deliver services, contributing over £2 billion of community investment, including over £0.5 billion from their small share of council tax.
Local rural town and parish councils build strong, vibrant, and resilient communities, which deliver an ever growing, more ambitious and innovative range of activities, as well as supporting the devolution agenda and taking over more and more services, assets and facilities from principal (county, district and unitary) councils.
In recent years, local rural town and parish councils have been growing in role, profile and importance, responding positively to the social, economic and environmental needs of local communities despite limited capacity, growing demands and increasing fiscal challenges including:
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC), the national voice of local councils, has signed a strategic commitment with the Alzheimer's Society to promote dementia friendly communities across England, recognising that local councils and county associations can and do have a key role to play in achieving this.
Dementia Friendly Parishes around the Yealm is an example of parish councils working together in a rural area to promote inclusion and to reduce isolation and loneliness for people with dementia, their families and other people at risk. This project is a collaboration between five Parish Councils in South Devon, working together to raise awareness about dementia, reduce stigma and create opportunities in their communities for people with dementia, their families and other people to have fulfilling lives. Using the general powers of the Localism Act 2011, the five parish councils of Wembury, Brixton, Yealmpton, Newton & Noss and Holbeton are working in partnership to change and improve the lives of people with dementia, their families and other people at risk living in these parishes.
The key aims of Dementia Friendly Parishes around the Yealm are to benefit people with dementia, their families, other people at risk and the communities they live in by: -
It empowers people with dementia, their carers and other individuals at risk to remain in their own community with support, to reduce unnecessary and disruptive admissions to hospital, or unplanned respite and emergency call outs.
To find out more about this hugely successful initiative contact Ian Sherriff B.E.M. Academic lead for Dementia Plymouth University faculty of Health, Medicine, Dentistry and Human Sciences or Mrs Liz Hitchins, Chairman, Brixton Parish Council, Devon. Review their website for contact details: http://www.dementiayealm.org/
Community Lincs is one of RSP’s rural community council partners. The East Lindsey project is a really good example of local communities and local agencies pulling together to reduce social isolation and loneliness that many older people experience.
TED Ageing Better in East Lindsey
TED Ageing Better in East Lindsey is one of fourteen partnership programmes funded through The National Lottery Community Fund - Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better Programme. Ageing Better partnerships are based in 14 locations across England, from Torbay to Middlesbrough and the Isle of Wight to East Lindsey. Working with local people, charities, businesses, public sector services and voluntary groups, the Ageing Better partnerships are exploring creative ways for people aged over 50 to be actively involved in their local communities, helping to combat social isolation and loneliness. Ageing Better is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier.
TED is a partnership of older people and voluntary and public sector agencies, led by Community Lincs, working closely in East Lindsey to reduce social isolation and loneliness that many older people in the district experience. TED has developed innovative and creative ways for people, aged over 50, to be actively involved in their local communities.
The overarching outcomes of the TED programme are:
TED delivers across East Lindsey, including Louth, Horncastle, Mablethorpe, Sutton-on-Sea and Skegness. The Programme looks to help organise self-sustaining Friendship Groups within communities, conduct Age-friendly Business assessments and work with a variety of Delivery Partners to reach a wider community and to also conduct research into the challenges over 50s face as they reach retirement.
Our engagement with over 50s and partners, evaluation, research and delivery to date has provided an evidence base about the needs and gaps in provision for socially isolated over 50s in East Lindsey. This continues to be supplemented with evidence gathered via the TED Well-being Survey (CMF), TED events, and our TED beneficiaries. We are currently working towards the following strategic themes:
TED Delivery Statistics:
The RSP is keen to profile the vital work of the Community Heart Beat Trust, which is both an RSP and RHCA member. Their hard work supplying defibrillators and concerns about maintenance and training in rural communities makes interesting reading. Take a look at the following link for details
The RSP is proud to be working with Darren Shirley, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport and as a long-standing member of the RSP we are keen to highlight their current campaign success.
Is brighter future for buses on the horizon?
After a decade of campaigning for more support for local buses, we could finally be about to see buses getting the central government recognition they deserve in the form of a National Bus Strategy. This is fantastic news, especially for rural communities who have borne the brunt of reduced and withdrawn services in recent years.
Central government support couldn’t come soon enough for our most used form of public transport, as our recent report, Future of the bus: future funding arrangements
[https://bettertransport.org.uk/read-our-report-future-bus-funding] showed. It revealed funding for buses is almost £400 million a year lower than it was a decade ago, with local authority funding having fallen by £163 million a year and national funding having fallen by £234 million a year in real terms.
The consequences of the loss of local buses are as serious in rural areas as anywhere else, sometimes more so given the lack of public transport alternatives. If there's no bus, then those without a car, typically older people, younger people and those on low incomes, find themselves stranded and isolated. Poor transport affects rural economies too, stunting growth and limiting business and job opportunities. Without good transport connections local businesses, especially in rural areas, suffer.
But as long as local buses are considered a local issue it makes it difficult to systematically resolve the issues faced and ensure that communities continue to have access to employment, education and other services via public transport. That’s why a National Bus Strategy and central government funding settlement are so important.
Funding for buses is currently fragmented, short-term and sorely ineffective, as our report highlighted. Nationally, buses are funded via the Bus Service Operators Grant (a fuel duty rebate) and the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (which sees government funding for journeys made by older and disabled bus pass holders). Both are flawed and have proven insufficient to ensure communities have the bus services they need.
The current funding regime should be replaced with a single, ring-fenced, long-term framework aimed at growing bus networks and delivering social, economic and environmental benefits. Funding like this could be used by local authorities to initiate new models of delivering rural bus services.
Buses also have a national role to play in helping the UK meet its stringent greenhouse gas emission targets and a National Bus Strategy should include a clear path to zero emissions with a deadline of 2035 for a zero-emission bus fleet, hydrogen or electric, facilitated by a fleet and depot overhaul programme.
Buses have a vital role to play in connecting rural communities, boosting local economies, tackling the loneliness crisis, cleaning up air pollution and helping the UK hit its zero-emission target. A National Bus Strategy, backed up by central government funding, can help us set buses on the road to meeting all these goals and ensuring buses remain a crucial part of our public transport mix.
As a new member we are keen to promote the work of the Peak District National Park, in particular The Hope Valley project.
Hop on board the Hope Valley Explorer
Against the trend of reducing rural bus services, a new seasonal bus tour service in the Hope Valley was launched by the Peak District National Park Authority in July 2019. The Hope Valley Explorer aims to moderate the number of car journeys within the Peak District National Park during its busiest season and the school summer holidays.
The service attracted some 2,600 passengers in July and August, during the first season of a three-year pilot in partnership with bus operator Stagecoach.
As well as serving the highly popular Hope Valley area of the Peak District, the service includes links from Chesterfield and the outskirts of Sheffield. The service also calls at rail stations at Edale, Hope and Bamford, at times convenient for getting the most from a day out in the area for people arriving by rail.
The Hope Valley Explorer offers a flexible hop-on, hop-off service, along with an audio commentary of the rich natural and cultural history of the area. The audio commentary, developed by the Peak District National Park Authority, gained very positive feedback from passengers with comments such as “… whoever had done it certainly knew their stuff!”
The route links together key stops at Edale, Castleton, Hope and at Fairholmes in the Derwent Valley. The highly scenic route takes in iconic locations such as the Winnats Pass, Mam Tor and alongside Ladybower Reservoir and opens up new opportunities to enjoy linear walks in the area. For many visitors the service is a handy way to explore the local shops, cafes, pubs and tourist attractions such as the Castleton Caverns.
On commencement of the service David Marsden, Transport Policy Officer with the Peak District National Park Authority said: “We’re excited to be launching this seasonal three year pilot service with our partners at Stagecoach, and with so much to offer in the Hope Valley and Derwent Valleys, we think it will be a popular choice with visitors from our neighbouring urban communities. By linking-in with local rail stations and offering links from the outskirts of Sheffield and Chesterfield, our aim is to support a reduction in private car journeys in these areas and help promote more sustainable ways of getting to, and enjoying, the UK’s original National Park.”
John Young, commercial director for Stagecoach, said: “We are delighted to introduce this new service, working in partnership with the Peak District National Park, which will open up a beautiful part of the countryside for people to enjoy in a sustainable way during the summer holidays.”
The initial three-year, seasonal pilot scheme – funded by the National Park Authority - will assess the viability of running similar services long-term, to help ease pressure from private vehicles in the National Park.
A review of the Hope Valley Explorer is taking place with a few improvements in mind. Hopefully this will encourage many more people to hop on board the Hope Valley Explorer in 2020.
Further information is available at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/hopevalleyexplorer
The Forum of Private Business is an important business partner for the RSP and recently ran a well-received workshop at RSN’s National Conference. In light of business uncertainty, we are keen to support the work of the Forum. Ian Cass, the Forum’s MD explains their concern about productivity issue facing small businesses
There seems to be a big focus on a lack of productivity within the small business sector at the moment and government seems to be pointing an accusatory finger in small businesses direction.
We hear of a new initiative, backed by government, where larger companies help their smaller suppliers, which with late payment still identified as one of the main issues for many of the Forums members, (its estimated that those regularly affected by late payment issues spend 8.7 hours a week on average dealing with the impacts of late payment), all seems a little ironic.
We also see suggestions of the need to buy into new technology with little thought of the initial monetary cost of doing so, the training and development work needed so that staff can utilise it effectively (a time cost) and the benefits to the business in introducing these technological innovations, all seem to be missing. It typifies the government’s one-dimensional knee-jerk reaction to a far more complex problem.
Small business is different, very different from its larger counterparts, many sole traders left the big business world to set up on their own, many to try and achieve a good work life balance. With this in mind, you can perhaps understand why productivity is not high on some agendas. Working hard enough to pay the bills, but not so hard that you miss out on a family and social life may be the ultimate objective of them running their own business.
Then there is the compliance and regulation that your average small business, owner operator, has to wade through every day just to keep the business going. Many start a business because they have a passion for something or a great idea, but not long into the resulting businesses lifecycle they run into all those things you have to do to be compliant, and if you are an owner operator, not a big business with HR and Legal teams, you have to do it all yourself. I spoke to a Rural doctor recently and he said that he had a very small practice in the countryside, he was trained to be a doctor, not to deal with tax, employment, health and safety and other issues which end up taking most of his time.
So, Government needs to realise the issue it causes small business by taking a one size fits all approach to policy and regulation. Britain has the longest tax code in the world at 22,000 pages, something Greg Wise pointed out in a recent documentary he made, Hong Kong by comparison has a tax policy 350 pages long and seems to be prospering quite well with only 1.6% of the wording ours has. In 2010 the office for tax simplification was set up, dare I say, it seems to have failed miserably.
On many areas of regulation government sets up over complex and over wordy policy and regulation, much of it inefficient and they operate a system where any review of these regulations can be as long as 4 years after their introduction, so if it isn’t working it will continue to do so for 4 years before this can be pointed out and changed. In times of rapid technological and business change this is farcical.
We do have a regulatory policy committee who are supposed to check that policy and regulation is effective and takes into account the impact on small business, but I suspect that their job is a difficult one bearing in mind Civil Servants and Ministers hate having their homework checked.
Our members regularly ask for just two things, 1. Make it easier for me to do business and 2. Give me a level playing field to operate on, government meddling regularly does the opposite. So, the Business department, HMRC and Government can talk about productivity until they are blue in the face, but until they realise, they are part of the problem, (adding costs and complexity to running a small business) and start to do something about it, I doubt small businesses will listen.
The RSP Members’ Notice Board
Pub is the Hub.
The West Suffolk Alliance.
Peak District National Park.
The regional seminars/networking meetings around the country on key rural topics. A really great opportunity to network with likeminded rural services professionals. The seminars are free for RSP members.
Yorkshire and Humberside – Barriers to Access, Wednesday 15th January 2020.
Tuesday 3rd December - Rural Services Partner Meeting and the Combined RSP and Rural Health & Care Alliance meeting is aimed at bringing together non-public sector organisations to network and share best practice on service delivery in rural areas. Topics for the day include: meeting the zero-carbon agenda in rural areas, rural health and wellbeing case studies, and the challenges for young people living in rural England.
And don’t forget we are asking all of our members to sign up to the campaign 'Time for a Rural Strategy'. If you have not done so already, please sign up and back the campaign by accessing the following link:
Please could you forward the link as widely as possible within your networks and key rural organisations and encourage them to sign up to our call and help us with the campaign. Signatories won't be agreeing to everything in the 'It’s Time for a Rural Strategy' document; just the call on Government.
Many of our members are keen to tell you more about their organisation’s excellent work and with this in mind we have developed a unique area on our website as a resource for them to do so. This can be found here.
Equally, the RSP are keen to provide opportunities for RSP members to promote their work to the wider RSN network of 25,000, which includes 127 LAs, community organisations, rural businesses, and parish councils, to mention but a few. Members can send through this information by emailing Jon Turner.
Why Not Join Up!
The RSP exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.
If you know a rural organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us. The RSP is a solely rural focused organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 25,000 individuals. We reach all sectors of rural England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level. Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services of the RSP please take a look at the link https://www.rsnonline.org.uk/page/about-the-rsp or contact Jon Turner to find out more.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.