12/10/2021 - Rural Market Town Group Meeting

RMTG Meeting
Online via Zoom
16:30pm-18pm, Tuesday, 12th March 2021

- You can download a copy of the agenda for this meeting here
- You can download a copy of these minutes here
- You can download a copy of Nik Harwood's presentation here

Please note that attendance & apologies have been noted at the end of this document.

1. Welcome and Introduction to Rural Services Network from Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive and David Inman, Corporate Director.
2. Update on Composition of RMTG Officer Steering Group meeting.

Update from David Inman, Corporate Director.

We envisage an RMTG Officer Steering Group of 19 Clerks/Officers the following intended spread with existing representatives and those who are yet to be confirmed.

  • South West – we have two representatives.
  • South – we have two representatives.
  • West Midlands/West – we have one representative, seeking a second one.
  • Lancashire – we have one representative.
  • North West – we have one representative, seeking a second one.
  • Home Counties – we have two representatives.
  • Suffolk and Norfolk – we have two representatives.
  • East Midlands/East – we have one representative, seeking a second one.
  • Lincolnshire – we have two representatives.
  • Yorkshire – we are seeking on representative.
  • Northumberland/Durham – we are seeking on representative.


David Inman considered comments made by RMTG members at the last RMTG meeting and has reviewed the structure of the RMTG Officer Steering Group to ensure that the group is geographically balanced. It was agreed that the balance of this Group would be as outlined above. RSN will seek to fill vacancies for representatives.

3. RMTG Meeting Schedule 2022.
  • RMTG Officer Steering Group meeting – 14:00-15:00, Friday, 18th February 2022. By invitation only.
  • RMTG Clerks Advisory Panel meeting – 10:30-12noon, Friday, 18th March 2022. Open to all RMTG clerks.

Click here to register your place.

  • RMTG meeting – 16:30-18:00, Monday, 28th March 2022. Open to all RMTG Councillor representatives and clerks where a representative has not been appointed.

Click here to register your place.

  • RMTG Officer Steering Group meeting – 14:00-15:00, Thursday, 29th September 2022. By invitation only.
  • RMTG meeting – 16:30-18:00, Tuesday, 11th October 2022. Open to all RMTG Councillor representatives and clerks where a representative has not been appointed.

Click here to register your place.

4. RMTG Facebook Group Proposal. (Attachment 1)

Update from Kerry Booth, Deputy Chief Executive.


The meeting received a short presentation from Kerry Booth about the establishment of a RMTG Discussion Forum as a private Facebook page.  The rules for this forum were outlined and suggested hashtags (#) for most frequent discussion areas were agreed. Kerry made the point that more areas could be added if members felt there was need of them. The proposal was approved by the meeting. Members can add # to posts to group work to make it easier to find topics. The following # will be added to the forum to start off: #highstreet #market #ruraleconomy. RMTG Councils will be invited to this group in the coming month.

5. Young People in Rural Areas.

Update from David Inman, Corporate Director and a presentation from Nik Harwood, Chief Executive, Young Somerset.


This was one of the areas where the RMTG Officer Steering Group felt the RMTG group could play a vital role. Therefore, a section on Young People has been added to the updated RMTG Service Agreement. Unfortunately, there was no organisation in England now specifically focusing on matters appertaining to rural young people following rural organisation closures.

Nik Harwood, RSP Chairman and Chief Executive of Young Somerset gave a detailed presentation on the problems (and challenges) which young people currently face while living in rural areas in England. The situation relating to Rural/Market Towns was particularly concerning and he described them as too often the “forgotten middle ground”. He welcomed RMTG’s involvement in tackling such issues. It was agreed (as suggested by the service provision programme) that RMTG will immediately seek to constitute a national group of council members prepared to focus on the topic of Challenges Facing Young People in Rural Areas across England.

Click here to download a copy of Nik Harwood's presentaion

6. Transport in Rural Areas.


John Birtwistle, Policy Manager at First Bus gave members a presentation about his perspective about the Rural Transport situation. It has been agreed that transport related service reductions over the austerity period had been very significant across all rural areas of England. It is now fair to say that the Government is showing desire to look at ways of tackling transport problems in rural areas. They had set up a financial pot in an attempt to bring forward through a bidding process and new initiatives. John is aware of many requests made for bids through local partnerships and he was aware that many partnerships had been very actively looking to establish new ideas for bids.

The closing date for bid submissions was only weeks away and he encouraged members to find out what was being planned in their area and offered to assist if possible. John said he was very interested in being involved with the RMTG to tackle the most pressing issues facing rural transport across England.

7. An Exchange of Post Lockdown Experiences from RMTG Members.


A brief discussion between members about their local Post Lockdown experiences has showed varied situations and outcomes. An overall concern from the discussion emerged about Government’s general view on rural areas not needing as much financial support as large urban areas because rural areas tend to rely on assisting one another independently. It was felt that this overarching conclusion reached by the Government about rural areas across England is increasingly dangerous due to the trend of rural areas having a significantly older population, relying heavily on volunteering roles; also, many services that had previously operated in market towns have now moved to larger regional centres to assist with cost cutting.

Graham was asked to consider looking at a wider consultation on the position at the beginning of 2022/23 to see if a common composite case could be identified starting from the premise outlined above.

8. RSN Rural Market Town Group - Covid-19 Costs and Lost Income Survey. (Attachment 2)

Report on outcomes by Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive.


Graham Biggs reported back that the number of returns to this consultation had been relatively limited, as the group is much larger, therefore making overall conclusive statements hard. The situation was further complicated as the position varied considerably across the evidence given from those who had experienced financial difficulties from COVID-19 to those who had not. Some Councils had acknowledged that cancellations of events meant they were better off financially than normal because these events were normally those which were subsidising the community involvement. Graham had therefore concluded that from the evidence provided there was not an opportunity here to argue a case for subsidy from Government funds and that this matter could not be pursued.

9. Rural Situation Relating to Discretionary Services.

Update from Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive.


Graham outlined the comparative rural/urban situation across a range of discretionary services between people living in areas categorised as ‘rural’ and those categorised as ‘urban’. Discretionary services were of course being affected nationally by financial cut - backs but it was clear that in rural areas these cut - backs had had to be far more severe. The size of the variations both generally and across a range of services surprised many present.  Graham was encouraged to take this forward to a comprehensive document so that members could share the situation with fellow councillors.  It was also felt that updates from this base should be put together annually so that all councillors of member authorities should be aware of this statistical position.

10. Any Other Business.

An opportunity for members to offer their views on the group and discussed proposals.

11. RMTG Service Agreement.

Revised October 2021. Update from David Inman, Corporate Director.


At the beginning of the meeting David Inman introduced RMTG members to the latest revised version of the RMTG Service Agreement and shared the version in the link below on screen. After one year’s operation with the insight gathered from RMTG members and input from the RMTG Officer Steering Group we were able to identify the most pressing matters as well as services that the group would find most useful. The meeting formally ratified the proposed revised version of the RMTG Service Agreement.

Please click here to view the RMTG Service Agreement

Attendance and Apologies

Full Name


Graham Biggs MBE

Rural Services Network

John Birtwistle

First Bus UK

Kerry Booth

Rural Services Network

Cllr Sheila Burry

Clare Town Council

Stephen Cobb

Tadcaster Town Council

Cllr Sharon Cullingford

Gillingham Town Council

Cllr Stephen Davies

Castor Parish Council

Julie Debbage

Leominster Town Council

Andrea Durn

Wotton Under Edge Town Council

Cllr Caroline Finch

Swanage Town Council

Cllr Jan Goffey

Okehampton Town Council

Cllr Peter Harris

Southwell Town Council

Nik Harwood

Young Somerset

Cllr Anthony Hirons

Lutterworth Town Council

Cllr Bob Holt

Westerham Town Council

David Inman

Rural Services Network

Terry Jordan

Wisbech Town Council

Cllr Simon Leney

Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council

Cllr Clive Parkinson

Thornbury Town Council

David Pooley

St Austell Town Council

Vanessa Saunders

Holsworthy Town Council

Cllr Ron Simpson BEM

Uppingham Town Council

Cllr John Stockwood

Bingham Town Council

Cllr Michael Thompson

St Austell Town Council

Cllr Alison Trenery

Uttoxeter Town Council

David Wright

Market Harborough Town


Full Name


Tara Ball

Penistone Town Council

Cllr Belinda Bawden

Lyme Regis Town Council

Cllr Ann Bean

New Alresford Town Council

Cllr Amanda Brown

Great Dunmow Town Council

Lesley Bruton

Tenbury Town Council

Holly Goring

Uckfield Town Council

Mark Green

Lyme Regis Town Council

Carol Grey

Penrith Town Council

Liz Johnson-Idan

Chard Town Council

Cllr Paul Leadbetter

Charnock Richard Parish Council

Cllr Antony Leech

Okehampton Town Council

Keli Nolan-Lyons

Tenterden Town Council

Cllr John Ord

Hexham Town Council

Sue Petters

Barnstaple Town Council

Cllr Eve Poulter

Sutton Valence Parish Council

Angela Price

Ledbury Town Council

Jan Roomes

Hunstanton Town Council

Cllr Kate Rouse

Henley-in-Arden Parish Council

Cllr Jane Russ

Westbury Town Council

Cllr Chris Ryley

Burscough Parish Council

Beth Searle

Corsham Town Council

Cllr Chris Tennant

Earby Town Council

Cllr Mark Thorpe

Verwood Town Council

Cllr Sarah Williams

Bridport Town Council

Claire Windridge

Faversham Town Council


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