Councillor Cecilia Motley, Chair, welcomed Rural Assembly members to the meeting and noted apologies.
The Chair paid tribute to the late Cllr Roger Begy who had recently passed away. Members were reminded of his valued contribution as a colleague and previous RSN Chair. In recognition of this, the Chair invited a minute's silence.
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
John Birtwistle commented that it looked like the Buses Bill would be out in September
The minutes of the last Executive meeting werea noted and an update was provided on the Housing & Planning Bill.
Reference was made to the importance of RSN engagement with community groups and in particular, village halls via parish clerks.
Members agreed the budget report which had been circulated to members in advance of the meeting.
It was agreed that this presentation would be postponed to the next meeting, with the Executive considering the issues at its next meeting.
Consider circulating forms requesting information to members in advance of next meeting.
Item to be included on the Executive agenda and on the agenda for the meeting in July.
Members received an update of progress and outline of future Rural Service Network Events.
The Rural Conference, Cheltenham - 6,7 September.
2015-16 Rural Services Network Seminar Programme - Members noted a paper included within the agenda.
Brian Wilson introduced the draft policy briefing note on devolution. Evidence showed a strong rural and shire case for devolution but local authorities should decide themselves if they wish to do so. The government policy was that any substantial devolution would need an elected mayor but local authorities were keen that other options should be available.
Mr Wilson referred to LEPs and the need for them to match up with devolution geography. He invited comments on the draft.
Members raised several issues:
They were concerned about associated members where city regions cross with shires and that their economies may pull different ways.
With regard to housing and planning, there were issues about ground rules and consistencies - negotiating processes were very difficult.
Members provided examples where lack of recognition of extreme rural areas within the scheme of devolution were evident. They agreed that there was a need for assistance and more lobbying to remind the government of the existence of rural areas and the problems faced. The Remit is about economic regeneration - rural community economies struggle to deliver.
They were concerned about bureaucracy and additional costs in reaching agreements that do not help extreme rural communities in any way.
Evidence showed that LEPs will be a major part of devolution deal – this has been judged on population figures which is not fair on more rural areas.
Members discussed shared responsibilities at local levels and Mr Wilson
agreed that they may not get as much in a devolution deal as they would with a mayor - but that there should still be a choice. He reiterated the importance of getting local MPs on board.
Mr Wilson agreed to amend the draft to incorporate member comments and to add information about housing.
Nothing to report.
Andy Dean (RSN) updated members on mechanisms for building more sounding boards and on the progress of developing websites
Mr Dean went on to update members on progress of arrangements for the Alliance Rural Housing Week being held in July.
Members noted an update on the Rural Health Network and the planned re-launch in the next few months. Feedback had been received from the last conference and a product based on this would be developed and produced as a suggestion to be tested among interest groups. Key issues facing SPARSE areas needed to be addressed, including access to health care, GP recruitment/retention and high levels of rural fuel poverty. They agreed that a case needed to be made to find ways to deal with these barriers, both economically and practically.
Mr Biggs informed the group on work of the National Rural Crime Network inluding and development of the website. The 2 yea rHome Office funding grant was now finished – further funding would be dependent on on the wishesof commissioners to be elected in May and whether they would be keen to continue and be part of the crime network which would have to be self funding.
Members noted updates on Fire and Transport Groups.
Members received a presentation from Monica Burns (National Housing Federation). She outlined collaborative organisations and details of their current work which included the scheme being introduced for voluntary 'right to buy'. Members noted the policy which had received a major input from housing associations and progress on pilots.
She outlined the details of right-to-buy and the rules of the scheme, informing the group that full compensation for the discounts applied will be paid by government. Sales receipts would then be used to build new homes – with the intention that all those sold would be replaced nationally.
Ms Burns invited members to comment and informed them that the NHF would be organising workshops to inform organisations of their recommendations as well as consultations on starter homes.
Members noted the presentation and agreed that any exceptions to right to buy - particularly where housing associations refuse to sell to tenants – need to be clearly stated.
The Chair thanked Ms Burns for the presentation.
Circulate slides to members.
Mr Dean gave a presentation on member experiences of relationships with LEPs and the problems faced in setting them up to be active in very rural areas.
Members agreed the importance of continuing to emphasise the value of contribution by rural areas but were aware that there were issues which made it very difficult, such as lack of broadband. Parish councils also needed to be more involved and communication was vital as there was a real lack of public knowledge.
Members noted that the Surrey Rural Statement was now available and would be sent to the RSN
The Chair thanked members and officers for their attendance and the meeting closed at 3.30pm.
NEXT MEETING 11TH JULY 2016
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