22/06/2022 - Rural Assembly Meeting

- To download the agenda associated with this meeting click here
- To download the minutes for this meeting, click here
- The Attendance and Apologies for this meeting can be found at the bottom these minutes

Rural Assembly Meeting
  1. Attendance & Apologies. (Appendix A)

Cllr Cecilia Motley, Rural Services Network/Shropshire Council welcomed everyone to the meeting.  Apologies were taken as read.

  1. Notes from the previous Rural Assembly meeting.

The record of the meeting held on 4th April 2021 was noted.

  1. Notes from the previous RSN Executive meetings.

The record of the following three meetings of the RSN Executive were noted.

Cllr Cecilia Motley commended Kerry Booth on delivering an excellent performance in interview and congratulated her on her new position as Chief Executive Designate.

  1. Speakers.

Manu Ravishankar, Innovation Lead–Ofgem Programme, Innovate UK
“The Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF): An Overview and Upcoming Opportunities”

Manu delivered a presentation to attendees on the Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). Ofgem and Innovate UK are collaborating to deliver a net zero energy system and position the UK as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of energy systems.  The fund is of £450m over 5 years for energy network innovation projects. Manu highlighted the 3 pillars of the SIF, and described how the current political, market and social context have been carefully considered for round 2 challenges. Innovation Challenges are funded on the basis that networks must work with local authorities.  Manu called for ideas but with local authorities principally acting as a stakeholder. 

Cllr Dr Virginia Taylor, Eden District Council, noted that many rural authorities would not have the capacity to provide ideas, and raised the limited grid capacity for new uses of electricity for heating and transport. The limitations of rural infrastructure were also noted by Graham Biggs, Rural Services Network, and that solutions would have to work in the rural context – he cited the transition from fossil fuels in off-gas grid areas and the government’s position on electric heat pumps as an example. Manu explained that the fund is technology agnostic, and the purpose of the SIF was to assess the solutions that would work for rural.  Manu went on to consider how flexibility and improving efficiency of electricity use will unlock a great deal of grid capacity.  A final point was made by Dr. Malcolm Rigler about area specific energy solutions, which Manu agreed were valuable to the overall problem of reaching a net zero energy system and cited as an example the work with the NFU where innovative solutions were considered.

- Click here to view presentation from Manu Ravishankar, Innovate UK

Kerry Booth, Chief Executive Designate, Rural Services Network
“Levelling Up and SPF Agenda and what it means for rural areas”

Kerry introduced the Levelling Up White Paper and how the RSN were initially excited at the prospect of its potential for positive rural outcomes. She went on to highlight the Rural Lens reviews (that the RSN provides its members, accessible through the RSN website), particularly mentioning one review on the Levelling Up White Paper.  Kerry went on to discuss the disappointment in realising that the White Paper examined data at a granularity too large to understand the dispersed rural needs, how improvements were being sought at a regional level where focussing on the urban areas of a region can deliver “easy wins” at the expense of truly levelling up within the regions, that would include their rural areas.  It was noted that rural local authorities rarely have the same capacity as urban authorities to bid for funds, and although the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) did away with the need to bid, numerous Levelling Up funds did require bids to be prepared.

- Click here to view presentation from Kerry Booth, RSN

Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network
“Rural as a Region: The Hidden Challenge for Levelling Up”

Graham introduced the report which the RSN had commissioned from Pragmatix Advisory. This report examines the missions and metrics of the Levelling Up White Paper through a rural perspective and provides comparison of ‘Rural as a Region’, through the metrics, to the geographical regions, highlighting rural England’s need to be considered a priority for levelling up.

Graham pointed out that the missions and metrics were not set in stone and could change over time, and that during this time the levelling up landscape might change drastically. 

Currently rural areas are neglected in the Levelling Up framework as expressed in the White Paper. The conclusion of the Pragmatix work was that disparity is greater within regions than between regions, and for that reason a more granular level of assessment, and data requirement, is necessary to fulfil true Levelling Up.

Graham pointed to the Pragmatix considered opinion that additional measures and metrics would be required to present a more accurate picture of the rural level. The report has had good media coverage, and dependent on other news of the day, could be expected to create more coverage in the coming days. However, Graham highlighted that a big success already achieved is the response from the Department for Levelling Up, which stated:

“Rural areas are at the heart of our levelling up agenda. Our white paper is a plan for everyone, including rural communities, who rightly expect and deserve access to better services, quicker transport, and quality education. We've designed our funds to ensure we reach places most in need and we continue to keep them under review as we develop each levelling up mission.”

Graham went on to advise the meeting that the Rural Services Network will be providing for each of its Sparse members data analysis of those metrics for which data is available at local authority level, examining position and trajectory of the measures relative to England and ‘Rural as a Region’.

- Click here to view presentation from Graham Biggs MBE, RSN

Cllr Cecilia Motley rhetorically questioned whether Government wants to produce data of sufficient granularity or has a willingness to engage with the complexity of rural. Simon Matthews, Rural West Sussex Partnership, noted that the SPF (Shared Prosperity Fund) was very difficult to break into for rural since the prospectus does not mention “rural”. Graham replied that it is the RSN’s intention to request from member authorities their SPF investment plans for analysis, but noted that, whether they will be sufficient to achieve anything meaningful in specific rural communities – especially those areas receiving the minimum of £1M over 3-years remains to be seen. He went on to say RSN was pleased that the SPF was not a competition, but that the RSN would have expected weighting for sparsity to be included in the funding calculation for authorities’ share, which it was not as far as the 70% allocated per capita.

Cllr Phil King, Harborough District Council, made the point that a clear series of rural asks are needed so that he and his rural colleagues across England can more effectively lobby Government where opportunities arise. Graham agreed and confirmed a list of specific asked would be drawn up. He also gave assurance that through the Rural Coalition, the APPG on Rural Services, as well as sending to all relevant Government Departments, the Pragmatix report will deliver the messages that RSN members want the Government to understand.

Links to background documents:

- Overarching Rural Lens review of Levelling Up White Paper published
- Rural Lens Review of UK Shared Prosperity Fund Prospectus and Allocations
- Pragmatix Report – “Rural as a Region: The Hidden Challenge for Levelling Up”

  1. Cost of Living Research.

Verbal report from Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive.

Graham gave an overview of the Kovia Consulting interim report looking into the Rural Cost of Living that has been based on a literature review and desk research.  Graham noted some of the findings and expressed his desire for the consultants to bring the document to life with case studies and asked those in attendance for pertinent case studies for inclusion.

Kerry said that information on the increasing cost of rural living had been sent to Newsnight, and that although the RSN had not been referenced, this information had been used.

  1. National Rural Conference 2022.

Verbal report from Kerry Booth, Chief Executive Designate.

Please click here to book your place at our National Rural Conference 2022

Kerry gave a brief update on the progress for this year’s National Rural Conference and the likely format for the week of online events.

  1. Social Value Engine Event.

Event hosted by hosted by East Riding of Yorkshire Council, taking place from 10:30 to 12:00 on Wednesday, 19th October 2022.

Verbal update from Kerry Booth, Chief Executive Designate. Graham Biggs commented that being able to assess social value could become increasingly important in the context of Levelling Up and UKSPF.

  1. Any Other Business.

The next joint RSN AGM & Rural Assembly meeting is scheduled for Monday, 14th November 2022. Please click here to book your place in advance.

Attendance and Apologies:


Full Name


Ian Adams

Essex Fire Service

Cllr Philip Atkins

Staffordshire County Council

David Barrowcliff

English Rural Housing Association

Julie Beresford

Bassetlaw District Council

Graham Biggs MBE

Rural Services Network

Kerry Booth

Rural Services Network

Lois Brentnall

Advance Northumberland

Tony Brown

Northumberland County Council

Lillian Burns

National Association of Local Councils (NALC)

Matthew Byrne

Community Council Somerset

Sinead Carey

South Norfolk Council

Adam Clarke

Young Somerset

Abi Culley

Warwickshire County Council

Dr Jane Deville

University of Lincoln

Connor Finch

Anglian Water

Louise Flavell

Braintree District Council

Rachael Fullwood

Lincolnshire Rural Housing Association

Jo Giles

Cadent Ltd

Alan Gray

North Kesteven District Council

Nik Harwood

Young Somerset

Nicola Healy

Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils

Paul Henry

Suffolk County Council

David Inman

Rural Services Network

Cllr Patrick Kimber

West Devon Borough Council

Cllr Phil King

Harborough District Council

Nadine Kinsey

Herefordshire Council

Karen Lawrenson

Lancashire County Council

Simon Matthews

Rural West Sussex Partnership

Diana Maxwell

Hastoe Housing Association

Hayley McHugo

Harborough District Council

Nic Millington

Rural Media

Cllr Cecilia Motley

Shropshire Council

Cllr Karen Payne

Rutland County Council

Hannah Perry

University of Bolton

Emma Phillips

West Oxfordshire District Council

Cllr Garry Purdy

Derbyshire Dales District Council

Nicola Radford

Lincolnshire County Council

Mandy Ramm

Lincolnshire County Council

Julia Raven

West Northamptonshire Council

Manu Ravishankar

Innovate UK

Cllr Helen Reeve

South Hams District Council

Dr Malcolm Rigler

Retired GP

Mark Ryder

Warwickshire County Council

Cllr Jeremy Savage

South Norfolk District Council

Cllr Graham Simpkins

Westmorland & Furness Council / Eden District Council

Zoe Swanwick

Strand Partners

Cllr Dr Virginia Taylor

Eden District Council

Fiona Thomson

Outside the Box

Cllr Peter Thornton

Cumbria County Council

Mary Timmis

Stafford Borough Council

Will Tompsett

Wealden District Council

Nadine Trout

Rural Services Network

Cllr Sue Tucker

Scarborough Borough Council

Ellen Wardle


Ian Whittle

Reed In Partnership

Andy Wood

East Devon District Council

Dan Worth

Rural Services Network


Full Name


Vinia Abesamis

Herefordshire Council

Jane Adams

YMCA Lincolnshire

Beverley Alderton-Sambrook

Bassetlaw District Council

Jane Birch

Community Council Somerset

Ruth Buckley-Salmon

The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters

Dr Chris Clark

Royal College of General Practitioners, Rural Forum

Cllr Stephen Clarke

West Northamptonshire Council

Cllr Sue Cooper

South Oxfordshire District Council

Mike Crawshaw

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust

Lois Dale

Shropshire Council

Cllr Ronnie De Burle

Melton Borough Council

Caroline Duffy

Mid Sussex District Council

Cllr Janet Duncton

West Sussex County Council

Emma Foy

West Lindsey District Council

Andrea Gardner

Myerscough College

Professor Anne Green

University of Birmingham

Kate Hampson

West Sussex County Council

Mitch Harper

Leicestershire County Council

Cllr Robert Heseltine

North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Stephen Hillier

Mid Sussex District Council

Cllr David Hitchiner

Herefordshire County Council

Claire Holt

Durham County Council

Dr Ulrike Hotopp

LIVE Economics ltd

Gavin Iredale

Reed in Partnership

Cllr David Jeffels

North Yorkshire County Council

Samantha Jones

Suffolk County Council

Rev Richard Kirlew

The Agricultural Chaplains Association

Francesca Kirtley-Paine

Liquid Gas UK

Martyne Manning

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Paul Marshall

West Sussex County Council

Toby Matthews

Norfolk County Council

Sean Mcgrath

Lancashire County Council

Cllr Roger Phillips

Herefordshire Council

Gary Powell

Teignbridge District Council

Bobbie Preston

SP Energy Networks

Sylvia Pringle

Northumberland County Council

Cllr Stephen Purser

Teignbridge district Council

Clair Raybould

NHS Lincolnshire CCG

Cllr David Rogers


Janice Rose

Northumberland County Council

Marina Di Salvatore

West Lindsey District Council

Sareeta Sharma

Longhurst Group (Housing Association)

Stuart Shaw

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

Cllr Richard Sherras

Ribble Valley Borough Council

Ian Sherriff

Plymouth University

Nicola Simmons

Reed in Partnership

Cllr Margaret Squires

Mid Devon District Council

Cllr Vivienne Stock-Williams

Somerset West & Taunton Council

Cllr Richard van Dulken

Braintree District Council

Cllr Norman Webster

Mid Sussex District Council

Rosie Wiggins

Association of Convenience Stores

Edward Woodall

Association of Convenience Stores

Phill Woods

Cornwall Council

Damian Woolfe

Lancaster City Council


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.