RSN Rural Assembly meeting - 13 July 2015


Richard Kirlew (Church in Wales), Cllr Cecilia Motley (Shropshire Council), Elaine O'Leary (Northamptonshire ACRE), Cllr Robert Heseltine (North Yorkshire CC), Cllr Cameron Clark (Sevenoaks DC), Cllr Peter Thornton (South Lakeland DC), Cllr Lewis Strange (Lincolnshire CC), Jenny Hall (Royal Mail), James Mitchell (Royal Mail), Cllr David Ireton (Craven DC), Cllr Owen Bierley (West Lindsey DC), Cllr Madge Shineton (Shropshire Council), Cllr Peter Stevens (St Edmundsbury BC), Peter Moore, Chief Executive (Cornwall Rural Housing Association), Cllr Pam Posnett (Melton), Cllr Ann Carter (Daventry), Cllr Michael Hicks (South Hams), Cllr Nick Daubney (King's Lynn & West Norfolk), Cllr Hilary Carrick (Cumbria), Cllr Rupert Reichhold (East Northamptonshire Council), Neil Parish MP (Speaker) Chair, (EFRA Select Committee), Ian Hunter (Rural Cultural Reform), Cllr Jeremy Savage (South Norfolk), John Birtwistle, Head of Policy (First Group), Cllr Carole Clarke (South Northamptonshire), Anna Bradley-Dorman, Public Affairs (NFWI), Cllr John Clarke (Gedling), Cllr Roger Phillips (Herefordshire) Cllr Janet Duncton (West Sussex C C)

Officers: Graham Biggs (RSN), David Inman (RSN), Andy Dean (RSN), Brian Wilson (RSN)


Apologies for absence:

Cllr Alan Rhodes (Notts County), Jim Onions, Chief Fire Officer (Cumbria County Council), Ann Turner (Myrescough College), Cllr Roy Miller (Barnsley), Cllr Ablewhite (Huntingdonshire), Helen Briggs, Chief Executive (Rutland), Peter Shipp, Chairman & Chief Executive (EYMS Group Ltd), Stewart Horne, Managing Director (BIP West Devon), Jenny Maw (Federation of Small Businesses), Katherine Murphy (Patients Association), Cllr Jane Mortimer (Scarborough), David Harding, Area Manager (Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue), Liz Sneath (South Holland), Cllr Michael Wassell (Breckland), Cllr Neil Butters (Bath & North East Somerset), Cllr Paul Diviani (East Devon), Cllr Colin Law (Waveney), John Ward, District Treasurer (Chichester), Ian Knowles, Director of Resources (West Lindsey), Kath Hemmings, Neighbourhood Manager (Solihull), Adam Norburn, Executive Director (Rugby), Dr Nigel Stone (Exmoor National Park), Ken Parsons (Rural Shops Alliance), Cllr Steven Pugsley (West Somerset), Cllr Peter Bedford (Boston), Richard Quallington (ACRE), Eileen Swan (Derby College), Karen Symonds (Cornwall), Cllr Hugh McCarthy (Wycombe), Sue Chalkley, Chief Executive (Hastoe Group), Cllr John Pollard (Cornwall), Martyn Emberson, Chief Fire Officer (Northants Fire & Rescue), Cllr Jane Mortimer (Scarborough), Cllr Philip Sanders (West Devon Borough Council), Cllr Jane March (Tunbridge Wells), Paul Over, Executive Director (Chichester), Cllr Adam Paynter (Cornwall), Cllr Robert Gould (Sherborne), Cllr Gordon Nicolson OBE (Eden), Jean Hunter, Chief Executive (South Cambridgeshire), Cllr David Worden (North Devon), Cllr Roger Begy (Rutland), Suzanne Clear, Senior Advisor, Rural Affairs (NFU), Alice Woudhuysen, Senior Campaigns Officer (Age UK), Cllr Les Kew (Bath and North East Somerset)

To download the agenda for this meeting, click here
To download the minutes for this meeting, click here


1   Minutes of the last Rural Assembly meeting - 13th April 2015 (See Attachment 1)
The Minutes of the last Rural Assembly meeting held on 13 July 2015 were approved.

2   Minutes of the last Executive meeting - 22nd June 2015 (See Attachment 2)

The Minutes of the last Executive meeting held on 22 June 2015 were approved.

3   Budget 2015/16 and 2016/17 (See Attachment 3)
Members noted the Budget report for 2015/16 and 2016/17 which showed a prospective surplus of £9k in the first year, rising to £11k in the second. The Chair thanked Graham Biggs (Rural Services Network) for his report.

4   Postal Services across rural areas of England
Members received a presentation from Jenny Hall and James Mitchell from the Royal Mail, which provided an overview of current issues affecting the future of postal services.

The guests outlined processes used by universal services and the impact of changing requirements upon current systems. They informed members that a submission had already been sent to Ofcom detailing their concerns, in particular regarding analysis of rising costs. They assured the group that dialogue would continue with local councillors in order to ensure a continued customer-focussed service.

Members commended their work and agreed that continuing relationships were valuable. Some concerns were raised and noted, with a request to be updated on any further developments.

The Chairman thanked Ms Hall and Mr Mitchell for their presentation.

5   Presentation from Neil Parish, newly elected Chair of the EFRA Select Committee
Members welcomed Neil Parish MP, newly elected Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, to the meeting.

Mr Parish outlined the role of the Select Committee, to examine the work the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs does and how it spends its budgets. The Committee also covers major agencies including the Environment Agency, the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England and the Food and Environment Research Agency.

Members heard about the Mr. Parish's current workload which included looking at issues around Broadband access and tackling problems with bus service contractors in rural areas.

The group noted Mr. Parish's enthusiasm. He informed them that it was a role he had particular wanted as the key issues affecting rural areas were very important to him and was keen to continue collaboration with local councils in order to reach solutions to these problems.

The Chairman agreed that access to Broadband – particularly in the most rural areas was a major drawback and hoped that with the industry becoming more competitive, addressing this should be a main priority. Mr. Parish assured members that it was, and he looked forward to future liaisons in working towards a solution.

Members thanked Neil Parish MP for his contribution.

6   Housing in Rural Areas
Members welcomed Peter Moore, Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Housing Association and Chair of The Rural Housing Alliance.
Mr. Moore outlined the work of the Alliance, with the help and support of the RSN, in helping to provide a single, clear and collective voice for housing associations' lobbying and influencing on rural housing. Originally created help support National Housing Federation member housing associations that own and manage homes in rural areas, it enables associations to compare and learn from each other in areas such as design and sustainability. Members were referred to the

Alliance's rural housing pledge, Affordable homes for local people which offers a set of guarantees for rural communities.

Mr. Moore informed members of the Alliance's involvement with the Government's Rural Housing Advisory Group; a subgroup of the main Homes and Communities Agency's board. The Group's aim is to advise the HCA and seek ways to improve the delivery of affordable rural housing.

Members raised issues around affordability and lack of housing and agreed that mutual input would be necessary in order to sustain a consistent message to Government.

The Chairman thanked Mr. Moore for his presentation.

7   Election Manifestos (See Attachment 4 and Attachment 5)
Brian Wilson, Rural Services Network, outlined rural issues addressed to in the recent Conservative Party 2015 Manifesto and also a comparison of common aims between RSN, NALC and ACRE as set out in their respective Manifestos.

Members noted the reports and continuing work.

8   Buses Bill
Members briefly discussed the Buses Bill as one of the legislative plans for the year ahead unveiled in the Queen's Speech to Parliament.

The Buses Bill would provide the option for combined authority areas with directly-elected mayors to be responsible for the running of their local bus services with a hope that cities would be better able to promote an integrated transport system.

Several issues were raised, in particular pressures around lack of funding, concessionary fares and the need to enhance collaboration between bus operators and local authorities.

Members noted key points for consideration.

9   Devolution
Graham Biggs outlined the LGA's position in addressing devolution from a national point of view and agreed to bring the subject to a future meeting as requirements for involvement from RSN evolved.

10   Rural Services Network Events (See Attachment 6)
Members noted the programme of forthcoming events and were encouraged to attend those of interest.

11   Rural Sounding Board (See Attachment 7)
David Inman, Rural Services Network, conveyed the results of a recent sounding board survey, which asked for views on priorities of the new Government in its first 100 days to a range of rural issues.

The Chair expressed disappointment at the relatively low response from local Principal Authority councillors and encouraged members to participate in future surveys.

The results were noted.

12   Rural England Group
Andy Dean, Rural Services Network, outlined the progress of work of the Rural England Group. Members noted that 28 organisations were involved and that there had been a good level of attendance and debate at meetings, although there were some issues around funding and generating resources.

The Chairman thanked Mr Dean for the update.

13   Report on the RSP Service Groups
Members noted updated on the RSP Service Groups.

14   Any Other Business
Members briefly discussed the government's announcement that national minimum wage rates would rise from October 2015. Although welcome, it was important to remain aware of potential negative impact on local and small businesses and indeed, local government.




*** Meeting Ends***




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