Rural Services Network chair Cecilia Motley said a united front across all rural interest groups and sectors was vital to ensure the government recognised rural needs as the UK prepared to leave the EU.
Rural residents – especially those in sparsely populated and isolated areas – must not be overlooked in favour of the interests of larger towns and cities, she warned.
Urging voluntary organisations, local authorities and rural businesses to work together, councillor Motley said: “It is essential that a cohesive rural voice is strong so it can be heard.”
Irrespective of the vote in favour of Brexit, and the challenges and opportunities that brings, councillor Motley said it was important to remember that rural communities continued to face the same unchanged major challenges in remaining sustainable into the future.
“Many rural communities still lack decent broadband and there are still challenges around important issues such as rural public transport and affordable housing,” she said.
“On top of all this, the present unfairness in the amounts of government grant to rural vouncils compared to their urban counterparts hangs like a sword of Damocles.”
Councillor Motley was speaking after rural councillors and other community leaders gathered for their annual conference at the University of Gloucestershire.
The Rural Conference, Brexit - Survival of the Fittest – Making the Case for Rural, was held on 6-7 September at the Park Campus, Cheltenham.
She said: “What Brexit has done is overlay the whole situation – it gives us a whole different dimension that we as rural communities and service providers have to take into account.”
Brexit was an opportunity for the government to devise policies specifically aimed at resolving the problems faced by UK rural communities and businesses across all sectors.
But there was also a risk that the government would not continue funding for rural communities that was currently guaranteed from Brussels and which supports the rural economy.
Councillor Motley said: “MPs and government ministers need to be working on behalf of rural communities and businesses in their best interests – and the RSN is on hand to assist in getting this opportunity right.”
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