28/07/2021 - RSN Seminar: Rural Business

Date: 28th July 2021
Subject: Enabling Rural Business
Chair: Kerry Booth Assistant Chief Executive, Rural Services Network
- To download the Agenda for this seminar click here
- To view the welcome message from the RSN click here
- To download the Learning Outcomes from this seminar click here
- To view the Attendance and Apologies for this seminar click here


Learning Outcomes:

Examples of Good Practice/Reports/Information

The social value of pubs and publicans as small businesses providing new services and amenities in their communities
  • Pub is the Hub is an independent organisation which relies totally on donations and the voluntary help of 12 Expert Advisors.
  • In the UK approx. 48K pubs. In England, there are approx. 13K rural pubs of which 5,400 are free houses and 6K are business tenancies.
  • 86% of rural pubs are run as small businesses and are not part of the larger corporate sector.
  • 143K licensed premises in the UK – biggest threat to pubs is from change in hospitality business e.g. craft beer cafes, restaurants, hotels etc.
  • Social Value Report published in May 2021. For a copy of the report please email Nicky on support@pubisthehub.org.uk Encouraged to follow Treasury’s Green Book on appraisal and valuation to see if it could be used to quantify pubs.
  • Covid had an impact on collecting data and hope to complete data collection on those pubs missed out on. Focused on social value delivered through the Community Services Fund.
  • Key findings: for every £1 invested in a project approx. £9 additional social value was created from a huge range of services.
  • 36 different types of services – ranging from village stores, community cafes, libraries, hubs, garden areas, allotments, children’s playgrounds or whatever the pub landlord felt the community needed.
  • Report will be used in the future to demonstrate that projects are creating a social value. BEIS recommends the hospitality industry use the report to identify the social value they are creating.
  • Community Services Fund launched in 2013 – maximum grant awarded is £3K but could potentially create £27K in social value to the local area. To date helped over 700 pubs diversify. Pub landlords act as the connectors with a local area.
  • Lessons learnt from the pandemic is how small investments have created real, social, economic, and sustainable value for these small businesses.
  • Join Inn-Last Orders for Loneliness programme – link in with regional advisors to offer ideas and support to local publicans on how to combat loneliness in their area. Produced helpful guides and case studies.
  • Have used venues for IT Training hubs, community training, health surgeries, police surgeries, local vicar, community libraries etc
  • Need champions in local areas e.g., Cllrs of rural Local Authorities. Can donate to the Community Services Fund with the condition that it can only be used for projects in your area.
Proposals, Projects, and Programmes
  • The Diverse Regeneration Company CIC is a social enterprise to enable businesses and other organisations to achieve their potential through the delivery of grant programmes such as Leader, Greater Dartmoor LEAF, farm resilience programmes etc. to support the rural economy.
  • Need a Project and a basic, written proposal covering areas such as what do you want to do? How are you going to do it? How else could you do it? Why do you want to do it? Is it straightforward? Are there risks? What will change as a result? How much will it cost? How will you tell people about it? What else is out there? Who else does it? Who can help me? Do I need to bring in any other experts? What makes me and what am I doing different?
  • Might also need: customer feedback, a customer survey, start recording enquiries for products, or any evidence to make your proposal work and then summarise them.
  • So, you’ve had thoughts, put them together, summarised them and now you need funding. In 2020, 75% of businesses were looking for funding for working capital, cash flow or day-to-day expenses mainly due to Covid-19 pressures as currently in a different economic landscape; pre-Covid this was 53%.
  • Various avenues of funding and if able to access grant funding, it can show others that your business is worth investing in, and other investors may come on and support you as well. You retain control of your company and don’t have to pay the grant back.
  • Downside of grant funding is lots of applicants, investment of time in the application process, won’t fund everything, outcomes important and someone will check that you have achieved what you set out to do.
  • Check the guidance, focus on the areas that are important to the funders and do they match yours. Speak to advisors, can you adjust/compromise and is it right for you. Refresh proposal if necessary, considering all costs.
  • Application form – Answer all the questions and keep copies of everything. Set aside plenty of time to complete. If asked something that you haven't thought about, set aside time, and add it to your proposal.
  • So why are applications unsuccessful? Primarily the project did not fit with the funder’s priorities, the project was unclear, evidence was not good enough, not value for money etc.
  • For those who design schemes for funding - make them user friendly, only ask for what you need, be logical and be consistent in what you ask for. Is the application form the only way? Could you have a film show, a presentation, a business plan.
  • Sources of information: Government finance and support for your business (171 schemes), Local Authority economic development unit, LEPs, Business Advice organisations etc. Grant Finder, Grants Online.
It’s the Small Things…
  • Be the Business is a charity established in 2017 to improve UK business productivity which is part funded by the Government and leading UK firms.
  • The rationale is that productivity improvement across the UK economy will benefit every firm from the small businesses to large companies.
  • Evidence based, so focused on delivering a small number of programmes that they know make a difference, using industry best practice and large corporate expertise and panels of small business leaders.
  • Focus is on leadership and management, and tech adoption such as CRM, e-commerce, digital accounting etc.
  • Mentoring helps small business leaders improve their personal skills and provides them with a “sounding board”, confidence and external impartial advice.
  • Programmes independently evaluated. Success helped to inform the Government’s 12-week  “Help to Grow: Management”  scheme which is accredited by the Small Business Charter.
  • 12-month programme is for more established businesses looking to grow.
  • Be the Business Digital programme looks at the challenges around digital adoption across the UK and specifically rural areas. Pandemic has driven a massive wave of tech adoption as businesses had to go digital to keep going.
  • Small businesses struggle on how to choose and how to use technology. Use of case studies to show how businesses effectively used new technology and for those that it was not a good experience. 
  • Employee engagement key to success with technology adoption.
  • Sign up to a programme, benchmark productivity and performance, devise own business improvement plan to follow at own pace and remotely.
  • Open to collaborations. Important to work with trusted businesses who are like yours but doing things better.
Any Other Key Outcomes from the Seminar
  • Around 500,000 small businesses and sole traders registered in rural areas.
  • Potential to add £12 - £26 billion pounds a year to the UK economy if we had greater digital adoption in rural areas (see Rural England CIC report for Amazon).
  • Urban areas have £107 pound per head more in Council settlement funding assessment grant than rural areas do from government.
  • UK Shared Prosperity Fund is replacing the European funding.
  • Some RSN asks around dedicated rural funding and support.

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; and one looks at Rural Economies another at Rural Digital Connectivity and also at Rural Town Centres and High Streets.

As new Government strategies are announced, RSN puts them through a “Rural Lens Review” which adds depth and texture to the Policy Asks. A fresh crosscut of the Revitalising document being worked on will look in more depth at younger and older people, working age families and businesses (includes agri.). It will also look at the impact of various issues on these groups of people and develop case studies (personal experiences) rather than dry policy discussions. One of these reviews looks at Government Place Based Funds.

RSN report with Pragmatix Advisory on how there is bias in the metrics used towards northern, urban red-wall areas in the allocation criteria of the Levelling Up and other Funds.

Analysis and Commentary pieces for Rural Services Network by Jessica Sellick, Researcher at Rose Regeneration: From Survival to Revival:  How can we Regenerate our High Streets?

RSN Member Insights produced by Dan Worth, Research & Performance Analyst, RSN.  Please click on the link to access the Economy Insights.

Attendance and Apologies


Full Name


Bethan Aldridge

Rural Services Network

Cllr Paul Anstey

Fordingbridge Town Council

Cllr Jenny Bartlett

Leominster Town Council

Will Barton

West Oxfordshire District Council

Cllr Belinda Bawden

Lyme Regis Town Council

Jane Berni

YMCA Lincolnshire

Graham Biggs MBE

Rural Services Network

Cllr Jake Bishop

Ampthill Town Council

Kerry Booth

Rural Services Network

Steve Broome

East Sussex County Council

Tony Brown

Northumberland County Council

Cllr Alan Burgis

Camelford Town Council

Cllr Stephen Clarke

West Northamptonshire Council

Liz Clerke

Nottinghamshire County Council

Cllr Cheryl Creaser

Rye Town Council

Lois Dale

Shropshire Council

Liz Davy

South Cambridgeshire District Council

Andrea Durn

Wotton Under Edge Town Council

Susan Eldred

Flitwick Town Council

Linda Emmett

The Diverse Regeneration Company CIC

Eve Farley


Brendan Flanagan

Cheshire East Council

Cllr Kim Fletcher

Cranbrook and Sissinghurst Parish Council

Gerry Gilmurray

SP Energy Networks

Cllr Jan Goffey

Okehampton Town Council

Carol Grey

Penrith Town Council

Cllr Mark Hale

Hullbridge Parish Council

Kate Hampson

West Sussex County Council

Helen Harris

Leicestershire County Council

Cllr Lee Hatcher

Cranbrook & Sissinghurst Parish Council

Nicola Healy

Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils

Lizzi Hearn

CPRE, the countryside charity

Michael Hewitt

Cherwell District Council

Ivan Hewitt

Northumberland County Council

Chris Hill

Shopshire Council

Julie Holden

East Grinstead Town Council

Ulrike Hotopp

LIVE Economics ltd

Matt Jones

Suffolk County Council

Nick King

South Oxfordshire District Council

Louise Kite

Lancashire County Council

Andrew Lay

Maldon Town Council

John Longden

Pub is the Hub

Toby Matthews

Norfolk County Council

Sean McGrath

Lancashire County Council

Conrad Moore

Stroud District Council

Angie Morrissey

Cornwall Rural Housing Association Limited

Dr Robert Murray

East Devon District Council

Cllr Julie Najuk

Gedling Borough Council

Mark O'Mahoney

Be the Business

Hilary Porter

Nottinghamshire County Council

Mandy Ramm

Lincolnshire County Council

Cllr Jeremy Savage

South Norfolk District Council

Robert Stepniewski

Worcestershire County Council

Judith Sturley

Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council

James Tennant

North Northamptonshire Council

Cllr Michael Thompson

St Austell Town Council

Karen Tolley

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council

John Tonge

Stratford-on-Avon District Council

Martin Tucker

Wotton Under Edge Town Council

Rupert Waters

Mid Sussex District Council

Mark Wathen

Somerset West and Taunton Council

Cllr Liz Withington

North Norfolk District Council


Full Name


Cllr Giles Archibald

South Lakeland Council

Cllr Philip Atkins OBE

Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Angela Baker

Edenbridge Town Council

David Barnes

Belper Town Council

Mandie Berry

North Somerset Council

Steve Brain

Worcestershire County Council

Ken Christy

Northants Acre Trustee

Abi Culley

Warwickshire County Council

Sharon Cullingford

Gillingham Town Council

Caroline Duffy

Mid Sussex District Council

Dominie Dunbrook

North Devon Council

Cllr Janet Duncton

West Sussex County Council

Alan Dunn

Keswick Town Council

Cllr Diana Eastman

Saxmundham Town Council

Georgina Edwards

Plunkett Foundation

Cllr Jan Goffey

Okehampton Town Council

Alan Gray

North Kesteven District Council

Elizabeth Hanger

Lincolnshire County Council

Nik Harwood

Young Somerset

Alice Hendy

Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils

Cllr Robert Heseltine

North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Anthony Hirons

Lutterworth Town Council

Cllr Harry St John

West Oxfordshire District Council

Valerie Johnston

Tees Valley Rural Action

Cllr Phil King

Harborough District Council

Cllr Conrad Lynch

Kirkby Stephen Town Council

Keli Nolan-Lyons

Tenterden Town Council

Ursula Mann

Tavistock Town Council

Jo Martin

Rural Business Network

Jo Osgood

CSW Group

Cllr Michael Pearlman

Maldon Town Council

Victoria Pickles

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

Stuart Quick

North Norfolk District Council

Nicola Radford

Lincolnshire County Council

Julia Raven

South Northamptonshire Council

Cllr Ian Razzell

Rutland County Council

Cllr Helen Reeve

South Hams District Council

Tim Russell

Clun Town Council

Michael Sharman

CSW Group

Cllr Richard Sherras

Ribble Valley Borough Council

Emma Smith

Shropshire Council

Cllr Roger Sterry

Cinderford Town Council

Nicola Stevens

Nottinghamshire County Council

Carol Taylor

Mendip District Council

Sasha Taylor

Worcestershire County Council

Nadine Trout

Rural Services Network

Kate de Vries

Norfolk County Council

Clare Wilkins

Peak District National Park

Cllr Paul Williamson

Tavistock Town Council

Cllr David Worden

North Devon Council


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