Rural England Stakeholder Group and UKRPPRG Joint AGM – 7th December 2015

Alison McLean (Chair and ex CRC); Graham Biggs (RE); David Inman (RE); Brian Wilson (RE); Andy Dean (RE); Jane Hart (RE); Trevor Cherrett (TCPA); Justin Martin (Defra); Hetal Herani (Defra);Richard Quallington (ACRE);;Janet Dwyer (CCRI/UoG); Erica Popplewell (CPRE); Anna Bradley-Dorman (NFWI); Suzanne Clear (NFU); Ellie Brodie (SRUC); Paul Milbourne (Cardiff University)

Sheena Asthana, Sarah Lee, Jill Hopkinson, Mark Shucksmith, Neil Cleeveley, Michael Winter, Jerry Marshall, Amanda Brace, Richard Clarke, Justin Martin, Alice Woudhuysen, Charles Smith, Polly Gibb, Helen Aldis; Jo Lavis (RE); Margaret Clark (ex CRC); David Webb (FSB);Tamara Hooper (RICS); Jonathan Clark (Big Lottery Fund) Holly Jago (Calor Gas Ltd); Ruth McAreavey

The Chair opened the meeting at 1.30 p.m., welcomed those present, and introduced Ellie Brodie; Paul Milbourne and Janet Dwyer from the UKRPPRG

The UK Rural Policy Practitioners and Research Group (UKRPPRG)
Brian Wilson explained that the UKRPPRG comprised 4 convenors, one each from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who have an important role in networking, policy and research.
The group intends to meet once a year with perhaps 2 extra meetings via Skype. The group’s webpage is hosted by Scotland’s rural College but that needs revision including adding ‘research’ to their title.

Recent National Rural Policy News from Scotland, Wales and England
Ellie Brodie commented on the high turnout at the Scottish Independence Referendum. The Scotland Bill proposes changes to tax and welfare and there is a proposed transfer of the Crown Estate.
The Commission for Strengthening Local Democracy (COSLA) has a strong decentralisation agenda.
The Rural Parliament met for the first time in November 2014 and would meet again in 2016.
Important legislation included the Community and Empowerment Act setting out 16 National outcomes including Asset transfer requests and Community Right to Buy. The Land Reform Bill 2015 introduces new land rights, a Land Commission and a register of ownership and The Scottish Land Fund sets a target of 1million acres in community ownership.
Rural outcomes and indicators are expected although these have not yet been formally announced and no timeframe has been set.

Paul Milbourne commented that, in Wales, the rural agenda has less prominence than is the case in Scotland. Of 12 streams of government work one relates to rural communities and the rest are cross-cutting. There is an annual review and a dataset that attempts to measure change.
A big restructure of Local Government is planned still being consulted on. On current proposals 22 Local Authorities could form 8 new authorities with 2-3 large rural areas, a city region of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan and others a mix of urban and rural.
Funding for the observatory ceased in 2014 and new research will be bid for.
New legislation includes the Wellbeing and Future Generations Act, which embeds sustainability in all publicly funded agencies and Local Authorities, and The Environment Wales Act.

Brian Wilson noted that in England a new RDPE started in April 2015. LEADER had a much wider rural coverage but with an economic emphasis on jobs and business creation.
A full response to the Lord Cameron Review on rural proofing (January 2015) is imminent. It may reinforce existing analysis and require a Committee sign off to rural proofing but little expectation of any major increase in priority.

The Rural Productivity Plan has 10 points. It is good that it shines a spotlight on rural but the contents are mostly seen as policy re-announcements. It is not comprehensive e.g. transport doesn’t mention buses, there are no details of delivery on the universal service standard for Broadband. Affordable housing is this year’s topic.
Devolution is a big agenda. This was started by city regions but rural bids are not ruled out and it will be interesting to see rural options.
Trevor Cherett commented on the contrasts between England and Wales in terms of strategic planning (being dismantled in England) and devolution (no transparency). The situation in England being described as extremely difficult.
Justin Martin confirmed that that the response to the Cameron Review is expected any day. He further commented that Defra was facing budget reductions. Some work would be undertaken on buses and on planning as part of the Rural Productivity Plan.


Ellie Brodie ( a presentation on Community Right to Buy in Scotland
She commented that half the land in Scotland is owned by fewer than 500 people. The Land Reform Act 2003 gives Communities to register an interest in land and then to obtain first refusal if the land comes up for sale. 94 interests have been registered, in about half those cases the land has come up for sale and 22purchases have been made.
There remain barriers to community ownership which include: sustaining the interest of communities and volunteers; lack of specialist knowledge; finding funding to meet the valuation figure; and concerns about relationships between communities and landowners.
The presentation can be viewed here

Janet Dwyer ( a presentation on Evaluating Community Initiatives and Programmes using Social Return on Investment (SROI)
SROI values things that matter to people and captures impacts at a local level. It picks up unintended and unexpected outcomes and aims to measure all benefits to society not just the benefits to specific stakeholder(s). It is increasingly used particularly in the third sector.
It comprises 3 stages:
1. Describing the change through stakeholder consultations
2. Measuring the change
3. Putting a monetary value on the change by using financial proxies
As might be expected monetising outcomes using proxy measures can prove difficult and sometimes contentious.
The presentation can be viewed here

Paul Milbourne ( a presentation on Austerity Welfare Reform and Older People in Rural Wales
Older people were initially largely protected from austerity measures, giving rise to a change in attitudes from other sectors of society about the fairness of the distribution of cuts. However, some 16% of the UK s population aged over 65 lives in poverty.
Public sector finance cuts are now resulting in an increased relianceon the third sector, but at the same time their funding, which tends to rely heavily on small grants, is being cut. There are also difficulties with care worker recruitment.
How much further can the State roll-back?
The presentation can be viewed here with further notes here