Rural England Meeting - 3rd March 2014

Rural England Meeting, London 3rd March 2014.

David Inman; Andy Dean; Jane Hart; Janice Banks; Margaret Clarke; Alison McLean; David Webb; Mark Shucksmith.

1. Apologies
Brian Wilson; Howard Petch; Nigel Curry; Sheena Asthana; Patrick Begg
The meeting commenced at 1.00 p.m.

2. Last meeting
The notes of the last meeting were agreed.

3. Election of Chair
Alison McLean was elected as chair for this meeting and the reminder of 2014.

4. Overall remit. Purpose and ways of working
(a) The group agreed Brian Wilson’s paper, Appendix C of the meeting’s papers, with the following minor changes:
Aims and objectives
•    First bullet point in paragraph 2 page 1 to read: “To support the development of the rural evidence base to inform policy and practice.”
•    Second and third bullet points in same paragraph to swap position.
Positioning and scope: Replace para beginning “Things which are considered out of scope….” with “Areas that already benefit from well-developed networks, such as agriculture, wildlife and natural resources will not be duplicated by this group”
•    Fourth bullet to read:  Local Authorities and other service providers
Proposed services
Row A under ways of working add “and use to influence policy and practice”
Annual graduate event could influence rural research agenda as well as encouraging informal networks and fora.
There was a general consensus that informing the other organisations represented by the group of the ‘working document’ would be helpful.  
David Inman agreed to tidy up the document, and then pass it to group members for them to feed-back to their own organisations.
It was intended it would be the anchor paper from which the group would operate.

(b) proposed Community Interest Company
David Inman informed the group of the intention to set up a Community Interest Company for Rural England with this group forming the membership.  Initial directors to be appointed by RSN but subsequent director appointments to be made by members.

5. Current work programme
(1) David Inman introduced the different schemes inviting members to comment.
UK Policy and Practitioners Group. Agreed to be of merit but recognised as ambitious.
Bi-Annual Research Report. Felt to be an important area of work engaging with substantive rural issues. It needs to be topical.
RSN calls for evidence.  Considered an important mechanism to enable people to input their views on rural issues. Potential to achieve large volume of responses should be of value to researchers.
Networking for real. Use of ‘linked-in’ groups both rolling and topic (perhaps time limited to 3 weeks). Supported. It was also felt that this could be supplemented by use of ‘twitter’.
Heart of Village Research Area. Felt important in view of continuing LA cuts.  Issues around school transport, police and social care specifically mentioned.
Rural Vulnerability. Agreed to cover the three topics in rather more depth instead of widening out the topic list. It was specifically mentioned that Scottish and English policies on fuel poverty are very different and that the economic as well as social implications of poor rural broadband can be acute.
Library of Good Rural Practice. Important to identify what is transferable and to encourage people to spread the word when they’ve done something judged successful.
Rural Sounding Boards. Agreed. It was noted that a formal panel would be more costly to establish and maintain as it would need to be representative.
Rural News Service. There was a suggestion that this could start as a Rural England twitter.
Annual State of Rural Services. Felt to be a valuable source of hard statistics and showing trends over time. It would be helpful to try to get more press interest.
(2) Funding. It was commented that the services could be packaged differently- perhaps following Brian’s A-D groupings. Educational/academic institute sponsorship, Trusts (e.g. Esmee Fairburn) and lottery programme were suggested for further consideration. Some concern expressed that a lot of small sponsors might increase administration but it was recognised this might be the only route in many cases.

6. Patron for Rural England Service
It was agreed to approach Princess Anne as she has an interest in rural issues. David Inman to draft a letter.

7. Institute of Rural Practitioners
David to hold initial discussions with the education lead for Parish councils and the Newcastle Rural Development Practitioners group.

8. REE
Exact position unknown but thought to be an intention to submit in late spring/summer for the funding trance ending this September.

9. Other Business
Agreed to invite W.I. into group.
Discussion about Rural Parliaments in other countries.

10. Next meetings
Monday 9th June, then Monday 3rd November. Venue(s) to be agreed.


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