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1 Apologies for absence
Members noted apologies for the meeting.
2 Constitution (See Attachment 1)
Members agreed to recommend the adoption of the revised Constitution which now reflected the Group's change in structure.
At this point, the meeting was adjourned for the inaugural AGM of the Rural Services Network Special Interest Group.
3 Election of a Chairman and any Vice Chairman
Members agreed re-election of the Chairman, Cllr Cecilia Motley and Vice-Chairman, Cllr Robert Heseltine.
4 Minutes of the last full meeting- 13th July 2015 (See Attachment 2)
The minutes of the last full meeting were agreed subject to an amendment to include Cllr Janet Duncton, West Sussex CC who had previously been omitted from the attendance.
5 Minutes of the last Executive meeting- 14th September 2015 (See Attachment 3)
The minutes of the last Executive meeting were noted.
6 Minutes of the last Rural Unitary Councils Group - 28th September 2015 (See Attachment 4)
Members noted a summary of the outcome of the meeting of the Rural Unitary Councils Community Group from Graham Biggs, RSN.
It was agreed that the group had a meaningful role and that it should have a rolling Chairmanship of 6 months. Members noted that a paper on the lack of Broadband in rural areas, to be presented to the Treasury, would follow for information. Unfortunately, there had not been an opportunity to present a document on Rural Health and Well-being services as was referenced at that meeting
7 Membership (Constitutional Requirement)
Members noted current membership of the Rural Assembly, recognising them as the only named organisation standing up for rural issues. 154 local authorities are currently in membership, with links to over 9000 parishes and 4000 schools.
The Chair thanked David Inman, RSN and colleagues for all their hard work recruiting to the Assembly.
8 Budget 2014/15 and 2015/16 (Constitutional Requirement) (See Attachment 5)
Members noted the budget report and the prospect of a reasonably healthy out-turn. It would be important however, to ensure that subs were paid on time in order to balance the books at the end of the year.
9 RSN Services and Schedule of Meetings for 2015 (Constitutional Requirement)
Members agreed the dates of future meetings.
10 Rural Conference (See Attachment 8)
Members received a presentation from Graham Biggs on arrangements for the Rural Conference, September 2016.
It was felt that largely the Conference had been a very successful event. Those members of RSN team who had been involved were very much thanked. Another conference would be held at the same venue in September 2016 and the University of Gloucestershire were thanked for all their help and assistance.
Members discussed their experiences from the previous conferences and raised a few points of detail. Some members had commented that they had felt somewhat isolated being apart from other members as the day was on the University campus and suggestions were made to try and organise a conference hotel in the future, so that some group sessions could carry on there. There had also been a few comments on domestic issues and it was agreed to review the issues highlighted before the next one.
11 Rural Sounding Board
David Inman, Rural Services Network, updated members on the outcomes of the Rural Sounding Board survey asking about the impact on services of the financial cut backs. This was a repeat of a survey undertaken in 2014 and the situation had altered with more feeling that the cut backs were having an impact on the quality of services.
Members were pleased that there had been a good response from local authority and parish councillors. It was agreed the same survey would be done from April to June 2016 with the results being reported back to the July meeting. Here is the link to the survey: http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/best-practice/rural-sounding-board
Action: Circulate Survey for information David Inman
12 Issues Facing Rural Housing Associations (See Attachment 6)
The Chair welcomed Jo Lavis, Director of Rural Housing Solutions who provided a presentation to the group on provision of affordable housing within current constraints.
Her presentation outlined ways in which, through working together, and with available resources, policies could be developed to help deliver affordable housing in rural areas. Members heard how, by bringing stakeholders together to create collaborative partnerships, and using their expertise, capacity could be strengthened in order to achieve mutual goals.
Members discussed concerns, thanking the Speaker for her presentation and requested that it be available on the website.
Action: To place presentation on Rural Services Network David Inman
13 Buses Bill Briefing (See Attachment 7)
The Group noted a briefing on the Buses Bill which contained two main provisions which would enable local authorities to take up more direct transport powers.
Members referred to existing voluntary partnership agreements and agreed that this would provide better opportunities to enable more innovative ways of providing commercially viable services.
The Bill was due to become law in 2017.
14 Julia Mulligan (See Attachment 9)
The Chair welcomed Julia Mulligan, Chair, National Rural Crime Network and the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.
Julia summarised the work of the National Rural Crime Network, to raise the profile of the effects of crime in rural areas which are often underestimated and under-reported.
She outlined challenges in ensuring provision of quantitative funding and providing services across large, sparsely populated geographical areas that are often more costly than in urban areas.
Members heard that, whilst the volume of crime in rural areas is very often lower than in urban locations, its consequences can be equally impactful and undermine feelings of personal safety. The aim of the Network is to improve understanding of these issues and address the difficulties around provision of vital services.
Discussion continued about ways of sharing back office functions in order to address lack of funding and finding better ways of working via other shared services and logistics. Members agreed that raising public confidence in the police forces was a key issue and part of this was due to heavy bureaucratic processes.
The Chair thanked the Speaker for a very interesting presentation.
15 Any Other Business
There was no other business.
The meeting was closed at 3 25 p.m.
NEXT MEETING 11TH APRIL 2015
*** Meeting Ends***
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