CDC BACKS AGENDA TO GIVE RURAL BRITAIN A FAIR DEAL
Cotswold District Council has given its full support to a new national manifesto that urges all politicians to allocate a fairer share of the public services budget to rural communities.
Like many rural authorities, Cotswold District Council is aware of the marked gap that has opened up between the provision of public services in urban areas and communities in the countryside. As an example, pupils in urban schools currently enjoy twice as much funding as their rural counterparts; the latter also struggle to find jobs locally when they leave education, making it very difficult to achieve a vibrant population mix in the countryside or an overall reduction in the age of the rural workforce.
The Deputy Leader of Cotswold District Council and Chair of the Local Strategic Partnership, Carole Topple, a keen advocate for change, welcomed the council’s decision to sign up to a Rural Services Network (RSN) manifesto, which calls on all political parties to restore parity in public service provision.
The RSN, a group of over 250 public and private sector service providers, has published the manifesto to influence the debate over the future of rural areas during the run-up to the forthcoming General Election. It calls for a fair deal for those living in rural areas, and indicates that governments over the years have continually failed to recognise the difficulty people face when accessing vital services in the countryside.
The Manifesto focuses on ten key themes which are of prime importance, including: provision of affordable housing, safeguarding rural schools, building robust flood defences, and ensuring access to digital networks.
Commenting on the themes, Councillor Topple said:
"This is an opportune moment to sign up to the RSN manifesto and highlight the stark reality that typifies life in many rural communities. To the casual observer the Cotswolds appears to be a very prosperous area, but we are not immune to the woes of rural deprivation both for our young residents and our ever increasing percentage of older people. Although we do not register in the top quartile of the national deprivation index overall, some parts of the district most definitely fall into this category when it comes to issues like employment and income levels, poor condition of housing, and lack of central heating. Some areas are even ranked in the worst 3% when it comes to accessing services such as general practitioners, primary schools, general stores and post offices. It is high time that this funding gap between the urban and rural areas was closed to address some of these concerns.
"There is strength in numbers, and joining forces with the RSN gives me hope that politicians of all persuasions will take on board the hard messages contained in this manifesto. We are going through a period of intense public spending restraint, and policy-makers need to be reminded that their current funding mechanisms fail to recognise the extra costs of service provision in rural areas.
"Through the Local Strategic Partnership, and working alongside agencies such as the Primary Care Trust, Police, and the Youth Service Voluntary sector, Cotswold District Council has succeeded in providing rural services to those most in need, and we’ve done it on a shoestring budget. There is a rural ‘premium’ attached to nearly everything we do – costs per head are normally higher because we obviously cater for fewer numbers, and we have to cope with other factors like higher transport costs. With the severe financial cutbacks and lack of resource being felt by all at present, the future of our partnership work is looking increasingly uncertain. The smallest of cuts can seriously undermine our effectiveness.
"The value which the Cotswolds and other rural communities bring to the British economy, society, and culture should not be underestimated by anyone, and I very much hope that the politicians will sit up and take notice."
A copy of the RSN manifesto is available here.
The full address is:
The Rural Service Network manifesto was officially handed to politicians during a reception in the House of Commons on the 6th January. It draws attention to ten key areas of concern:
- Delivering growth to rural economies and communities
- Safeguarding rural schools
- Health and social care in rural areas
- Robust flood defences
- Affordable housing in rural areas
- The digital future in rural communities
- Safe, reliable and affordable transport solutions
- Service provision in rural areas
- Safeguarding and expanding rural proofing
- Overcoming rural fuel poverty
The Rural Services Network is a group of more than 250 organisations working together to improve the delivery of rural services across England. Further information and a full list of members is available at http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/. Copies of the Manifesto are available on the site or on request. The two operating arms of the network are the Sparsity Partnership for Authorities Delivering Rural Services (SPARSE) and the Rural Services Partnership.
The Rural Services Network seeks to establish best practice across the spectrum of rural service provision. The network has representation across the complete range of rural services, including local authorities, public bodies, businesses, charities and voluntary groups. The RSN is devoted to safeguarding and improving services in rural communities across England. It is the only national network specifically focusing on this vital aspect of rural life.
The Rural Services Network exists to ensure services delivered to the communities of predominantly rural England are as strong and as effective as possible. The term 'predominately rural' refers to counties and Local Authority districts with at least 50 percent of their population living in rural settlements (ie. rural towns, villages, hamlets and dispersed dwellings) as identified in the Office for National Statistics' rural definition, and including larger market towns as identified in the Defra classification of local authority districts.
The rural definition and classification were devised by the Rural Evidence Research Centre (RERC) at Birkbeck College. Further information on these can be found on the RERC website at www.rerc.ac.uk
Download related documents
Rural Services Manifesto 2010
This document is available for download in the following format(s):
Cotswold District Council, Trinity Road, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 1PX
Telephone: 01285 623 169