Notes of Rural England Stakeholder Group meeting.
London 4 June 2018
Margaret Clark (ex CRC); Alison Mclean (ex CRC); Brian Wilson (RE); Graham Biggs (RE); Andy Dean (RE); David Inman (RE); Jane Hart (RE); Jo Lavis (RE); Derek Egan (Defra); Richard Quallington (ACRE); Kamna Muralidharan (Big Lottery Fund); Claire Maxim (Germinate: Arthur Rank Centre); Suzanne Clear (NFU); Sarah Palmer (NFYFC); Lois Lane (CPRE).
Mike Perry (RE); Ellie Jesson, Clare Crookenden and Helen Aldis (Prince’s Countryside Fund); Rebecca Sharkey (NFWI); Alison Marshall (Cumbria University); James Alcock (Plunkett); Amanda Brace (National Parks England); Janet Dwyer (CCRI); Charles Smith (Farming Community Network); John Birtwistle (First Bus); Jill Hopkinson (Germinate); Fiona Davies (WiRE); Neil Cleeveley and Jane Ide (NAVCA); Ian Sherriff (Plymouth University); Trevor Cherrett (TCPA); Paul Blacklock (RE); Lois Lane (CPRE);Anna Bradley-Dorman (NFWI).
1. Welcome and introduction
The Chair, Margaret Clark, opened the meeting just after 1.30 p.m. and welcomed everyone attending. Those present then gave brief introductions.
Apologies were received – as listed above.
2. The minutes of the Stakeholders meeting held on 5 February 2018 were agreed.
Matters arising from the previous two meetings were then discussed:
- David Inman informed the group that unfortunately, despite repeated attempts, there had still been no response from Defra regarding the requested commendation. It was agreed that the attempt now be abandoned.
- David further advised that he had been in discussion with the CLA in an attempt to expand the pool of potential funders to include Land Agents and rural Estates.
- Brian Wilson stated that Dan Worth has pulled out relevant data sets in connection with the indicators project.
3. Stakeholders’ Research
Germinate is likely to undertake more research in future including work on Rural Services which should complement the work being carried out by Rural England.
CPRE are looking at development on the Green Belt (what is being built and how much). Research on Rural Affordable Housing is expected in the Autumn.
Derek Egan of Defra advised that research about the dynamics of the rural economy, which is being undertaken by ‘Frontier Economics’ is expected to be published in October. Other research is planned on (i) the impact of ERDF and the Social Fund on rural areas and (ii) Farming and rural settlements which will have an economic focus.
Sarah Palmer spoke about the Rural Youth Project to which NFYFC is a partner. A detailed survey achieved some 700 responses. The research will be launched at the ‘Big Ideas Festival’ in Scotland in early August and the research findings will provide evidence to the APPG on Youth Affairs.
The NFU had undertaken a number of consultations with farmers and noted particularly the extensive consultations with farmers in connections with Defra’s Consultation Paper ‘Health and Harmony: The future for food farming and the environment in a Green Brexit’. Defra’s response is awaited.
Graham Biggs commented that RSN is making the case for a comprehensive rural strategy including what is needed and why. He anticipates consultation will follow the AGM in November.
The Chair indicated that a call for evidence is likely to follow the House of Lords Rural Economy Group’s meeting in July.
Andy Dean advised that a Business Productivity Review is underway looking particularly at SME’s.
4. Current Rural England Research
(a) Jane Hart reported on progress regarding the fuel poverty work which is intended to be a literature search rather than a full research paper. She had identified some 30 relevant documents and is currently writing a short covering text. In addition to quantifying the higher incidence of fuel poverty and the higher fuel poverty gap in rural areas the research has identified a number of additional issues which may exacerbate problems facing fuel poor households on rural areas. These include issues with unmetered fuel supplies such a needing to pay up-front; minimum orders; absence of PSR; no social tariff; and seasonal and supply related variations in price. She also identified certain aspects of the recent consultation on future Energy Company Obligations which would appear to disadvantage rural household living in fuel poverty.
(b) In relation to research on 16-18 year olds education and work based learning, Jane had explored a range of published statistics but found little that helps to clarify the rural issues. It seems likely that the rural issues are primarily around accessibility and choice, and cost. Accordingly, much of the research is likely to be survey and interview based.
(c) Brian Wilson advised that the State of Rural Services research is broadly on schedule with draft chapters on transport, connectivity, libraries and young people about to be circulated. The other four chapters will follow later.
(d) David Inman explained that following discussions with Electricity North West a survey of Parish Councils in the North West of England had been undertaken to ascertain their awareness of the Priority Services Register (PSR). Surprisingly, of the 30% that responded only some 30% were aware of the PSR.
(e) Graham Biggs told the group that the Rural Services APPG intends to respond when the Adult Social Care Green Paper is published. The next meeting of that APPG is to be held on 3 July following which there is likely to be a call for evidence. Graham undertook to keep the group informed.
5. Issues from the Directors’ meeting
(i) It was suggested that the UKRPPRG meeting usually held in December might with benefit be combined with the Rural Stakeholders AGM. This was agreed with the AGM to take place in the morning and the UKRPPRG in the afternoon following a sandwich lunch.
(ii) Mike Perry had resigned as a director due to work commitments. He had been very helpful and will be greatly missed.
6. Report back from meetings
(a) With supporters generally, 29th March a.m.
In the morning session the Rural England Directors reported on work that we had done in the past year. The information appeared to be well received.
(b) With Infrastructure Providers, 29th March p.m.
The meeting included an interesting and engaging presentation from a provider illustrating how the PSR operates in a variety of scenarios.
Another meeting with supporters is planned for next year.
7. IPPR Rural Housing Policy Workshop
Jo Lavis reported that much of the discussion had focused on issues that have been raised before such as capital funding for affordable homes; the need for s106 agreements on sites of fewer than 10 dwellings; and strengthening rural proofing. Some different suggestions included: giving Local Authorities more ‘right to buy’ powers; mechanisms for land value capture; a possible Rural Development Corporation with powers to acquire and develop land; and revolving land banks.
A draft internal report is expected within days but the final document will be published in Rural Housing Week 2nd-6th July
The Prince’s Countryside Fund research on remote rural communities is also expected in July.
8. and 9. Accounts and Financial Backing
Graham Biggs referred to the accounts which had previously been circulated to Directors. Whilst there is expected to be a £8,000 carry forward from this year the predicted balance for the following year is just £1,000.
Efforts are currently being made to attract one or two additional core sponsors and to get Rural England onto tender lists for paid research contracts.
RSN has recently appointed a new employee, Jon Turner, in a fund raising role and he is also assisting Rural England. There will be a special Directors meeting in September to consider what realistic options might be possible.
Jo Lavis suggested that if any supporter could assist Rural England by providing marketing advice that would be extremely helpful. The chair suggested possible sponsorship of individual products.
It was agreed that it could be helpful to ask supporters what they are getting out of their association with Rural England and what else they would like.
10. Reflection on the role of the group
This item was deferred.
It was agreed that the document explaining the different roles of directors, stakeholders and supporters should be re-circulated.
11. Other Business
David Inman reported on potential for working with the rural small business group.
Kamna Muralidharan infomed the group of recent changes in the Big Lottery Fund which now has three new products: Reaching Communities, Partnerships and Awards for All. The Fund is now organised in 6 regional teams and the grant making process is more conversational. Kamna agreed to circulate more information.
The meeting ended at approximately 3.20 p.m.