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Members noted apologies. Graham thanked attendees and welcomed speakers.
The minutes from the previous AGM meetings were noted and approved.
Members agreed that the Chairman should continue for the forthcoming year.
Members noted the list of current vice-Chairs, and agreed that those currently in the roles should continue.
Members agreed that Cllr Robert Heseltine should continue in his current role.
Members agreed that the Sub SIG chairmanship should remain as it is currently with the Chairman leading both Sparse Rural and the Rural Assembly.
Members noted the report of the RSN executive which gave an overview of challenges over the next 5 years, looking at issues around representing rural areas and sustaining the organisation. Members discussed current contributions, a new cycle of meetings and new future services.
The group discussed possible outcomes further to Brexit and agreed that rural areas would need to be joined up in their thinking if they were to have a strong voice to Government. The range of work required of the RSN would not reach its full potential without an increase in the subscription and all rural areas being involved in the Group. In future, the Group would levy a charge – as an investment in rural areas - instead of asking for a subscription. The revised charge was agreed to be implemented in April 2017 rather than 2018 as stated in the report.
Additionally members decided as follows:
(a) Public Sector Finances
To seek to cover (through Sparse Rural) all public sector financial matters – comparing rural and urban settlements. Detailed work on seeking to improve settlement could, however, only be done on the Local Government settlement. If representation on other settlements were to be attempted, additional resource to fund that work would have to be achieved.
(b) Parliamentary Activity
As well as continuing The Rural Fair Share Group, the RSN would seek to establish a campaigning group in relation to other rural issues such as vulnerability. They might also seek to establish an APPG on Brexit activity. The possibility of seeking to establish a rural group in The Lords would also be investigated.
(c) Comparison Work
This would be a new service. Attempts would be made to highlight the treatment of urban and rural areas.
(d) Rural Vulnerability
One in four people in rural areas was over the age of 65. Within the coming decade this would increase to one in three. The number of people over the age of 80 was also increasing very sharply and by 2039 one in eight people in rural areas would be of that age. The meeting discussed the social problems that would arise and the need to establish protective networks. The meeting decided it would seek to undertake significant work in this area (Rural Assembly meetings).
Members noted recommendations to develop a position statement to fulfil full economic and social expectations for all rural areas, particularly after Brexit. They confirmed the need to engage with CCN and DCN and agreed the importance to have elected representation from rural areas working on the same page and to avoid fragmentation in taking forward issues of importance to rural areas. It was suggested a group be created to gather all info and statistics on the amount of issues faced by those living in rural areas.
(f) A Biennial Rural Meeting
It was felt that too often rural areas failed to achieve a collective rural view. The concept of trying to achieve a cross representational meeting once every two years was agreed. Detailed discussion with the University of Gloucestershire and with other rural organisations was agreed.
Members noted and agreed to all further recommendations within the report. The Chair thanked them for their valuable contributions to the discussed and to David Inman for all his input and hard work.
Members noted the date of the next meeting of the AGM - 20 November 2017.
Members agreed the report as a policy situation in relation to the Group (including the RSP).
The minutes of the last meeting were agreed.
The annual report on membership was noted.
Members noted the budget report as it stood. The figures for 17/18 needed amending to include a communication strategy, Brexit work and the new charges just agreed. This would be revisited at future meetings.
Members noted the position of the Group as detailed by Graham Biggs. Local Authorities had also to comment directly as the position would vary from Authority to Authority. The LGA's First magazine will have an article on implications on rural areas by RSN.
Brian Wilson had sent apologies. The launch was delayed until January 2018 and the group noted a summary of current findings from Rural England. Members agreed that the findings were useful and looked forward to receiving more information at coming meetings.
Members noted the presentation from Kerry Booth and discussed key issues, including transport, access to health specialists, recruitment and other limitations in rural areas. The Chair thanked the speaker for her work and noted that LG First Magaizine had shown interest in an article about this subject for the Spring edition. Members discussed their own experiences.
Members received a presentation about this year's conference and discussed the outcomes. It was agreed that it had been a very successful event and it had been a great platform for networking and sharing information.
This would again take place in Cheltenham on the 5th and 6th September. Members were encouraged to attend and agreed the benefits. They noted difficulties in getting Ministerial attendance due to the time of year – however, they would attempt to get a Minister to attend a future Rural Assembly meeting.
Members noted the list of meeting dates for the forthcoming year.
Graham Biggs notified members that the Rural Health Conference would be held on 28 February in London.
Members noted outcomes of recent consultations and agreed the need to ensure that common messages are consistent between DCN, CCN and LGA.
There was no other business and the meeting was closed.
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