24/01/2022 - RSN Rural Economy Group Meeting

Date: 24th January 2022  
Subject: Rural Economy
Chair: Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network
Hosted: Online Event via Zoom

- To download the agenda and papers associated for this meeting, click here

- To download a copy of these learning outcomes click here

- To view the attendance and apologies lists click here


Speaker 1: Sarah Welfare, Head of Policy and Research, Reed in Partnership
Speaker 2:
Brian Wilson, Chair of Directors, Rural England CIC
Speaker 3:
Kerry Booth, Deputy Chief Executive, Rural Services Network

Learning Outcomes

Key issues highlighted by speakers

Sarah Welfare, Head of Policy and Research, Reed in Partnership

Working with Local Authorities to Support Rural Employment

Download the presentation here

Download a list of main DWP employment contracts and providers January 2022

Working with Local Authorities to Support Rural Employment

  • Reed in Partnership work with local authorities to support their residents into employment, but also offer services in health, rehabilitation, youth services, and business support.
  • Transport is found to be a barrier to accessing jobs or applying for jobs for people in rural areas.
  • Rural bus timetables do not match current working hours.
  • Childcare drop off and pick up to and from work is more difficult in the rural setting.
  • Employment services changed over pandemic, there was more remote support, but finding the right balance is essential to meet the needs of those requiring help.
  • There is the question of how to assist people back into employment who are not in employment but are not claiming support. Self-referral schemes can help.
  • Post pandemic support for those searching for work is available. (Kickstart)
  • Jobcentre Plus offices have become more about community support and provision. See more at this link: Jobcentre Plus - working together with employers
  • There is a Restart scheme to support the long term unemployed, and the eligibility criteria is now wider - list of Restart providers by area
  • JETS service by Reed helps health and wellbeing.
  • There is a question whether support in accessing co-worker spaces would assist worker wellbeing.
  • Reports on how Reed in Partnership better support residents of rural areas, can be found on their website on this page: Supporting jobseekers in rural areas | Reed in Partnership
  • Coastal and small rural towns in a sparse setting were found to have greater employment service needs.
  • Reed in Partnership joined the Rural Services Partnership in 2021 and it has been beneficial in understanding rural intelligence and bringing together organisations serving similar areas.

Brian Wilson, Chair of Directors, Rural England CIC

State of Rural Services Report 2021

Download the presentation here

  • The State of Rural Services Report 2021 was launched (virtually) on the 12th January 2022. There was one presentation to Parliamentarians, followed by a General Launch.
  • Published by Rural England, an independent research, networking and information exchange Community Interest Company, set up to inform the policy agenda.
  • The report focusses on the impact of the pandemic and was based on evidence from various sources including analysis of national data sets and 2 surveys. One survey of rural residents in conjunction with the CCRI, the other being a survey of market towns through the RSN Rural Market Town Group.
  • Poverty statistics are tending to become worse over time (for example through the increased use of food banks), whereas claimant count is rebounding to pre pandemic levels.
  • The pandemic has created a range of winners and losers through the situation. Online retail and services have done well. Entertainment, cultural and social venues have fared poorly.
  • Local rural food shops were highly valued during the pandemic and lockdown periods.
  • Supermarkets were used less, but it was noted that they benefited from selling a range of goods for which shops that only sold those products were prohibited to open during lockdown.
  • Innovation for food shops involved rapid development of online orders and deliveries, as well as tailored services for those who were shielding.
  • There was a mixed picture for market towns success during the pandemic. There were not a significant number of shop closures, and some towns had increased footfall.  Some towns however saw reduced footfall, with the difference possibly coming from those towns able to benefit from tourism and day trippers.
  • The pandemic brought about 9 years of growth in online shopping in a single year, when compared to the rates of increase in online shopping seen previously.
  • Pub closures were a significant issue during the pandemic, this is despite survey results showing 25% of those surveyed considering the pub necessary or vital during the pandemic. This was a reflection on the multi-faceted benefit that pubs can deliver socially and through additional services.
  • Bus services have seen a slow partial return to normal passenger numbers. Car use dipped but has recovered. Walking and cycling increased during the early days of the pandemic but have since returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • There is continuing caution among past users of bus services which will naturally impact the return to pre-pandemic levels of service use.
  • Overall rural communities have shown themselves to be quite resilient through the pandemic, but the picture is varied.

Kerry Booth, Deputy Chief Executive, Rural Services Network

Government Levelling Up Funds and the Application Process for Rural Areas

Download the presentation here

  • The Government has not been precise about what the Levelling Up policy is and how to measure it. This is possibly to allow Government to exercise judgement on where funding is going for political reasons.
  • Rural and coastal areas are both specifically mentioned in Conservative Manifesto in relation to Levelling Up. We know that rural areas have higher costs in delivering many services, currently lower government funding, and it costs more to meet their needs.
  • There are a number of funds under the banner of Levelling Up for example the Towns Fund, the Community Renewal Fund, and the Levelling Up fund.
  • The metrics that will be used to measure the success of levelling up have not been defined.
  • Towns Fund prioritised towns greater than 15,000 residents, which excludes many rural towns despite them serving a wide hinterland. Although it was pointed out that ministerial judgement was used in some circumstances to select towns below this threshold.
  • The Rural Services Network (RSN) compiled feedback from members who had applied to a Levelling Up fund, suggestions received for an improved application process were:
  • Clear feedback as to the specific areas on which an application is unsuccessful.
  • Simplify the application process to allow a level playing field between small and large authorities. There are capacity issues in many rural authorities.
  • Realistic delivery timescales.
  • Transparency at the beginning of the process regarding which areas would be favoured.
  • The RSN represents our members interests on DEFRA’s Rural Impact Forum. The RSN will feed on any of our members feedback and experiences from the bidding processes to date to influence future processes.

Procuring the services of consultants to assist with the bidding process has both advantages and disadvantages. There are costs associated to procuring services (must be competitive). There are costs associated with managing any consultant.  Any authority using the services of a consultant must be mindful of potential reputational damage where consultants over promise to secure a successful bid with deliverables that the authority cannot fulfil.  Where bids provide funding for consultants to add to authority capacity, the added costs both financial and reputational need to be considered.

RSN’s Revitalising Rural Campaign Specific Policy Asks of the Government is for fairer distribution of national resources to rural areas and more nuanced national policies. There are 14 Chapters in the campaign; one of them looks specifically at Rural Economies and is available at this link.

Who are the Rural Services Network? Video on YouTube

Analysis and Commentary pieces for Rural Services Network by Jessica Sellick, Researcher at Rose Regeneration, investigates “Levelling up to create living working rural economies?”

Economy Insights, produced by the RSN, provides important markers as to the state of the economy for our member authorities. It explores a wide range of subjects, setting out data and statistics at Local Authority level allowing comparisons to be made with other rural areas. Please click here to access Economy Insights.

If you are interested in our other future events, please visit the following link to view our 2022 events calendar and book your place:

Useful links to share

Attendance and Apologies:


Full Name


Alice Walpole

Cornwall Council

Amy Beckett

Stroud District Council

Amy Cobbett


Anna Garner

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Antony Baden

Rother District Council

Becca Snow

Reed in Partnership

Ben Colson

Bus Users UK

Brian Wilson

Rural England CIC

Charlie Thornton

Eden District Council

Chris Clark

Royal College of General Practitioners

Cllr Adam Paynter

Cornwall Council

Cllr Carl Les

North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Chloe Turner

Stroud District Council

Cllr Christine Bayliss

Rother District Council

Cllr Duncan Enright

Oxfordshire County Council

Cllr Frances Beatty

Stafford Borough Council

Cllr Garry Purdy

Derbyshire Dales District Council

Cllr Harry St John

West Oxfordshire District Council

Cllr Janet Duncton

West Sussex County Council

Cllr Jeremy Savage

South Norfolk District Council

Cllr John Redpath

Guildford Borough Council

Cllr Loretta Whetlor

Somerset West and Taunton Council

Cllr Marion Fitzgerald

Allerdale Borough Council

Cllr Peter Crozier

West Devon Borough Council

Cllr Philip Atkins

Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Richard Meredith

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Cllr Richard Good

Richmondshire District Council

Cllr Richard Sherras

Ribble Valley Borough Council

Cllr Roger Phillips

Herefordshire Council

Cllr Sarah Wakefield

Somerset West and Taunton Council

Cllr Stephen Clarke

West Northamptonshire Council

Cllr Stephen Purser

Teignbridge District Council

Cllr Steve Waight

West Sussex County Council

Corinne Watson

Cumbria County Council

Daniel Worth

Rural Services Network

David Rodda

Cornwall Council

David Inman

Rural Services Network

Francesca Castelo

Guildford Borough Council

Gavin Iredale

Reed in Partnership

Graham Biggs MBE

Rural Services Network

Hamish MacLeod

Mobile UK

Holly Lombardo

National Rural Touring Forum

Ian Cass

The Forum of Private Business

Ian Whittle

Reed in Partnership

Jane Birch

Community Council Somerset

Janice Rose

Northumberland County Council

John Longden

Pub is The Hub

Kate Hampson

West Sussex County Council

Kerry Booth

Rural Services Network

Kieran Grainger

Reed in Partnership

Laura Dixon

Devon Communities Together

Lizzi Hearn

CPRE, the countryside charity

Lois Brentnall

Advance Northumberland 

Malcom Rigler

Nailsea Town Council

Mandy Ramm

Lincolnshire County Council

Marina Di Salvatore

West Lindsey District Council

Mark Brownbill

Devon Communities Together

Matt Jones

Suffolk County Council

Nadine Trout

Rural Services Network

Nic Millington

Rural Media

Nicola Radford

Lincolnshire County Council

Nigel Burch

South Holland District Council

Nina Jeffries

Teignbridge District Council

Cllr Patrick Kimber

West Devon Borough Council

Professor Gary Bosworth

Northumbria University

Cllr Richard Keeling

Teignbridge District Council

Samantha Jones

Suffolk County Council

Sarah Kidd

Northumberland County Council

Sarah Welfare

Reed in Partnership

Toby Matthews

Norfolk County Council

Tony Brown

Northumberland County Council

Sarah Cave

Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils

Steve Dowling

Association of Convenience Stores

Abi Culley

Warwickshire County Council

Claire Holt

Durham County Council

Ian Sherriff

University of Plymouth


Full Name


Mark Alden

South Downs National Park Authority

Katherine Armstrong

Community Council Somerset

Mark Barrow

Shropshire Council

Mandie Berry

North Somerset Council

Cllr Owen Bierley

West Lindsey District Council

Rod Birtles

Devon Communities Together

John Birtwistle

First Bus

David Bolton

Cornwall Rural Housing Association Ltd

Cllr Lizzy Bowen

West Northamptonshire Council

Cllr Catherine Braun

Stroud District Council

Cllr Norman Cavill

Somerset West and Taunton Council

Cllr Dr Ellie Chowns

Herefordshire Council

Cllr John Clark

South Somerset District Council

Anne Connor

Outside the Box

Cllr Sue Cooper

South Oxfordshire District Council

Louise Cumberland

Devon Communities Together

George Denton

South Norfolk and Broadland District Councils

Cllr James Easter

South Norfolk and Broadland District Councils

Monica Fogarty

Warwickshire County Council

Clive Gibbon

Boston Borough Council

Alan Gray

North Kesteven District Council

Cllr Roger Habgood

Somerset West and Taunton Council

Nik Harwood

Young Somerset

Nicola Healy

Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils

Paul Henry

Suffolk County Council

Cllr Robert Heseltine

North Yorkshire County Council

Michael Hewitt

Cherwell District Council

Lauren Hopson-Haw

Ryedale District Council

Professor Catherine Jackson

University of Central Lancashire

Dan James

Exmoor National Park Authority

Louisa Kiddell

Norfolk County Council

Cllr Phil King

Harborough District Council

Rita Lawson

Tees Valley Rural Action

Cllr Carl Les

North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Paul Marshall

West Sussex County Council

Claire Maxim

The Arthur Rank Centre

Ruth McArthur

Exmoor National Park Authority

Richard Mckie

Godolphin Cross Community Association

Guy McQueen

Lewes District & Eastbourne Borough Councils

Cllr Meredith

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Julie Milburn

Sparsholt College Group

Cllr Cecilia Motley

Shropshire Council

Cllr Julie Najuk

Gedling Borough Council

Cllr Roger Paterson

Rural West Sussex Partnership

Simon Pearson

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Kirsty Pitwood

West Suffolk Council

Cllr Pam Posnett

Leicestershire County Council

Gary Powell

Teignbridge District Council

Bobbie Preston

SP Energy Networks

Anna Price

Rural Business Group

Kate Pym

Pym's Consultancy Ltd

Martin Rich

Devon Communities Together

Mark Rogers

Bath & North East Somerset Council

Amerie Rose

Devon Communities Together

Catherine Sharman

Reed in Partnership

Penny Sharp

Rutland County Council

Cllr Lucy Shires

North Norfolk District Council

Philip Sourbut

Diocese of Exeter

Katherine Stanley

West Northamptonshire Council

Tom Stephenson

North York Moors National Park Authority

Venetia Summers

The Cornwall College Group

Cllr Virginia Taylor

Eden District Council

Melanie Thompson-Glen

Newcastle University/NICRE

Cllr Peter Thornton

South Lakeland District Council

Cllr John Ward

Babergh District Council

Anna Warner

Reed in Partnership

Matthew Warren

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service

Elizabeth Warwick

Wales & West Utilities

Cllr Norman Webster

Mid Sussex District Council

Cllr Amy Wheelton

South Derbyshire District Council

Cllr David Williams

South Staffordshire Council


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