The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Survey of Rural Market Town Group Highlights Service Challenges

Earlier this year, we surveyed members of our Rural Market Town Group (RMTG). This initiative aimed to gauge the status and challenges of services in rural areas, focusing on the experiences and observations of our member organisations within the RMTG. With the collective effort of numerous organisations dedicated to enhancing rural service delivery, we sought to understand the impacts of current policies and changes in service provision on rural communities.

Survey Overview

We reached out to the entirety of our RMTG membership and received an encouraging response rate with 169 respondents sharing their insights. The survey was designed to capture a broad spectrum of experiences, incorporating both closed and open-ended questions to allow members to articulate specific local issues affecting rural service delivery.

Key Findings

Public Service Ratings: Reflecting on the past three years, a significant portion of respondents noted a decline in the quality of public services, with 48% indicating a deterioration. This stark feedback underscores the pressing need for targeted improvements and support for rural services.
Service Availability: Members reported notable changes in the availability of council-provided services, highlighting reduced hours for recycling centres, difficulties in scheduling doctor appointments, and curtailed council and leisure centre operating times. These adjustments have had tangible impacts on the accessibility and convenience of essential services for rural residents.
Online Services and Accessibility: The shift toward online service provision garnered mixed reactions. While some appreciated the increased availability of information and the convenience of handling routine administration online, others expressed concerns about usability and the exclusion of residents less comfortable with digital platforms.
Service Charges: Increased costs for services such as parking, council tax, and garden waste collection were identified across responses. These rising charges, juxtaposed with perceived reductions in service quality, have heightened concerns among rural communities about value and affordability.
Devolved Services: Interestingly 39% of those responding to the survey said that their town or parish council had taken over services devolved by the principle local authority. These were being delivered directly by the Town or Parish Council or through support to a community organisation to deliver the service. This provides an area to explore with our RMTG in relation to sharing good practice and experiences.
Impact on Rural Communities: The survey shed light on the broader implications of these service changes, including poorer public transport connections, an uptick in fly-tipping incidents, and challenges in accessing GP appointments and dental services. The centralization of services to larger towns and the reduction in non-mandatory services have particularly affected rural areas, exacerbating existing disparities.

Moving Forward

The insights from this survey are invaluable as we continue to advocate for the needs and interests of rural communities. The challenges highlighted underscore the importance of nuanced, rural-specific policy making and the potential benefits of local control over service delivery. As we digest these findings, the RSN remains committed to supporting our members and campaigning for fair funding and effective solutions to the issues faced by rural areas.


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