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

Winter 2024 Rural Services Partnership Spotlight

Welcome to the Winter 2024 Rural Services Partnership Spotlight

In our first edition for the year, we focus on our upcoming seminar programme and highlight news and best practice from some of our members including articles on village halls and energy efficiency, rural mental health, national park funding, home sharing and more. Happy reading!

We recently held out first seminar of the year and focused on the topic of Rural Net Zero.  If you missed the event but would like to find out more click here.  RSN seminars are always well attended and feature high calibre speakers so if you haven’t booked a seminar yet please check out our full seminar programme here.  We have lots of great topics still to discuss over the course of the year including Rural Connectivity, Funding, Economy, Transport, Housing, Planning and Health. 

Seminar content and opportunities to present

If there is a particular topic you would like us to cover as part of our seminar programme, please let us know by emailing and we’ll try and secure an expert to talk on the matter.  Similarly, please get in touch if you have some best practice you’d like to share and potentially present at one of our seminars.

All events are free of charge for our members only.

Keep your stories coming
We’re always keen to promote our member organisations, so if you have an article you would like to feature in either a future Spotlight, or our weekly Rural Services Network e-bulletin, please email to


Help shape rural business growth decision-making platform
People working in economic development and regeneration are being invited to help shape a new practical analytics platform designed to guide rural business policy.
The Rural Enterprise Support Analytics (RESA) tool focuses on rates of business start-up, growth, and survival to enable local and regional policymakers to better understand and benchmark their area to inform decision-making.
The online platform – which is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – enables local/combined authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to assess the combinations of economic factors which influence these rates, rather than comparing them in isolation.
The team behind RESA at Northumbria University and the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise at Newcastle University is holding an online session on Wednesday 28 February, 10-11.30am, to gather feedback on the platform to shape its development before it is rolled out later in the year.
Read more

Combating Rural Loneliness: How Homeshare Can Make a Difference
Rural loneliness is a significant issue that affects many people living in our countryside. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone and over half say they go over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. It can have a profound impact on mental health and well-being.
With limited services and even more limited budgets, we need new ways to tackle loneliness among our older communities and RSN member Two Generations is doing just that with Homeshare.
A ‘Homeshare’ brings together two people, often from different generations. It helps the Householder (typically an older person or one living with a disability) to feel safe, gain companionship, and retain independence. It helps the Sharer (typically mature students or key workers) with an affordable housing option as this living arrangement is far below average private rent price.
Read more

National Park to receive £441k funding boost for moorland conservation work
The Peak District National Park is to receive a Government grant of £441,070 to help conserve habitats and wildlife on the Warslow Moors Estate.
The Countryside Stewardship grant from the Rural Payments Agency will enable the National Park to carry out conservation work, including planting sphagnum moss and enhancing habitats, such as blanket bog, on 255 hectares (630 acres) of the Warslow Moors Estate.
Phil Mulligan, Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park, said:
“Receiving this substantial grant for Countryside Stewardship is fantastic news for the Warslow Moors Estate. It will enable us to deliver a real boost for moorland habitat and nature conservation that includes carbon sequestration, peatland restoration, water quality improvement and flood prevention downstream.”
Read more

Latest News from the Broadcast 2040+ Campaign
The campaign has had an exciting start to 2024. We’ve mainly focused on engagement with the government’s Media Bill, which saw its Report Stage occur on the 30th January. We worked closely with a number of MPs to raise our case in Parliament as part of the Bill’s progress.  For many members of the coalition, this Bill has been a pivotal moment to ensure their members’ issues are raised and heard by government.

Further information about the campaigns progress, including the highlights from the last month, and what is coming up in February can be found in the February Broadcast 2040+ monthly newsletter

Geographical narcissism. Urbansplaining.
Geographical narcissism. Urbansplaining. These are terms for when people in cities tell people in rural areas what is good for them – and we need to stop doing that.
Those were the words of BMA Scotland chair Dr Iain Kennedy speaking to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in December during its inquiry into healthcare in remote and rural areas.
For dispensing GP practices, who generally operate in rural areas, there are widespread examples of urbansplaining in health policy:

  • Multidisciplinary teams (MDT): in rural areas challenges include inadequate funding for the excess costs of staffing, inadequate infrastructure to support the MDT, as well as problems with retention due to a lack of housing, schooling and job opportunities for partners
  • Pharmacy First services: insufficient pharmacists and business viability challenges in rural areas
  • Electronic Prescription Service (EPS): insufficient rural-proofing of programme specification and roll-out

New pharmacy services and IT developments such as the EPS offer important advantages to patient convenience and safety, and business efficiencies for the NHS and the healthcare professional.
Read more

The National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP), Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Post Office Ltd (PO) sign contract extension
The National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP) is delighted that Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Post Office Ltd (PO) have signed an extension to their contract.
Vital services such as the DVLA need to remain within the post office network, and we have to thank everybody who has helped this decision come to fruition.
More than six million people use the post office network for accessing DVLA services each year, and essential local and central government services need to be available to the general public. The post office network is the only infrastructure able to provide that and Government needs to ensure these services are always available.
The contract extension between DVLA and PO is a one-year rolling contract for up to three years, with PO and the DVLA having to agree at the end of each year if the contract will continue for the following year. We know that PO were working hard behind the scenes to ensure that these services remained available via the network and it is important to acknowledge that.
Read more

Small grants made available to village halls in England
Defra funded grant scheme reopens for those managing rural community buildings, this time with a lower award threshold of £2, 000 to support smaller projects and make it accessible to more groups.
In 2023, a £3 million village halls fund was launched to provide support for the modernisation and improvement of village halls in England.
Managed by Action with Rural Communities in England (ACRE), the fund has already awarded over £1 million to rural communities, helping them undertake ambitious improvements to their building. Works undertaken or scheduled to take place include new roofs, insulation, extensions, and more energy efficient heating systems.

On 1st February, the grant fund re-opened to new applicants who wish to undertake smaller projects such as disability access, toilet upgrades and new kitchens. Grant awards of between £2,000 to £5,000, and up to 20 per cent of eligible project costs, are on offer. Project expenditure must take place before 31 March 2025.
Read more

Benefits of rural life
One of our members from Plymouth University has signposted a funding opportunity from the European Commission via the Horizon Europe Programme.  Funding is available to look at “Societal perceptions and benefits of rural life and jobs: will COVID 19 generate a long-lasting shift?” The closing date for applications is 22 February 2024. For full details about the finding click here

If you are interested in applying, please let Dr Cath Gristy from Plymouth Institute of Education know by clicking here.

National Rural Mental Health Forum Examining Gender Based Violence
The National Rural Mental Health Forum, run by the mental health charity Change Mental Health, continues its online seminars tackling some of the pressing issues in rural communities.
On the 28th of February at 11am, the Forum shall hear from Robert Gordon University on the prevalence of gender-based violence in remote, rural and island communities. There shall be opportunities to engage with this research and consider actions needed.
Professor Sara Pedersen of Robert Gordon University (RGU) states:
“Despite the fact that one-fifth of the Scottish population lives in remote, rural and island communities, there has been limited research into the impact of Gender-Based Violence in these areas. The challenges already faced by victim-survivors were further heightened by COVID-19 and lockdowns. Stress factors such as having to work from home, concerns about health and money, and having to homeschool children, all meant that tensions were heightened during the pandemic. At the same time, lockdown conditions were used by abusers to intensify or conceal their violence.
Researchers from RGU will discuss the findings of a study investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on partnerships between the police and Gender-Based Violence service providers in rural, remote and island communities in Scotland at the National Rural Mental Health Forum online seminar on 28 February. The project outputs include a short film, which will be shown during the event.”
Read more

The Patients Association manifesto: Patients can’t wait
The Patients Association exists to ensure everybody can access and benefit from the health and care services they need to live well. Services must be designed and delivered through equal partnership with patients to achieve this objective. Mounting pressures in the NHS over recent years have put the relationship patients have with the services they need under huge strain.
The next Government must ensure more people can get the care they need and make patient partnership a reality across the NHS. Reversing the normalisation of the crisis the NHS is facing and rebuilding the relationship patients have with it must be addressed urgently.
The pressures the NHS is under that have affected patients’ care have guided the development of our general election manifesto. Our manifesto outlines key steps the next Government must take to ensure access to high quality care and introduce patient partnership throughout the NHS.
Read more

Pentabus starts its 50th birthday celebrations with move to a new home at Ludlow Assembly Rooms
Pentabus are starting their 50th birthday celebrations with a move to a new home at the recently refurbished Ludlow Assembly Rooms, placing the organisation in the centre of their local rural market town.
After 40 years on the farm estate at the Old School in Bromfield, the move will give Pentabus a long term home, make the organisation more accessible to artists and audiences alike with good public transport links, and provide a dedicated library and hang out space especially designed by the award-nominated designer Charlie Cridlan, who collaborated with Pentabus on Jacaranda.
Pentabus will work alongside a brilliant team at the Assembly Rooms and be part of building a thriving creative community in the heart of Ludlow, allowing the organisation to remain rooted in the local rural community even as its work speaks to the nation.
Read more


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