Rural England Stakeholder Group Meeting – 6 June 2016


Alison McLean (ex CRC); David Inman(RE/RSN); Graham Biggs (RE/RSN); Brian Wilson (RE); Andy Dean (RE); Jane Hart (RE); Clare Crookenden (PCF); Sarah Lee (Countryside Alliance); Jonathan Clark (Big Lottery Fund); Richard Quallington (ACRE); Suzanne Crear (NFU); Steve Crabb (British Gas)

Lord Cameron of Dillington; Christine Tate (British Gas); John Birtwistle (First Group plc); Professor Michael Winter;  Professor Janet Dwyer; Professor Mark Shucksmith; Margaret Clark (ex CRC); Sarah Palmer (NFYFC); Jo Lavis (RE); Belinda Gordon (CPRE); Deborah Clarke (ACRE); Charles Smith(FCN); Jerry Marshall (Arthur Rank); David Webb (FSB); Amanda Brace (Nat Parks); Helen Aldis (PCF); Trevor Cherrett (TCPA); Christopher Price (CLA); Anna Bradley-Dorman (NFWI); Holly Jago(Calor)

The Chair, Alison McLean, opened the meeting at 1.30 p.m. and welcomed those present.  This was followed by brief introductions.

The notes of the previous meeting were agreed.

1.    Matters arising from the minutes.

(a)    David Inman informed the group that Lord Cameron had kindly agreed to be a stakeholder and that he had indicated that he will attend stakeholder meetings when his other workload permits.

(b)   The group was told that Holly Jago from Calor is now a Director of Rural England and that an approach has been made to the Prince’s Countryside Fund for a further Director. They had a meeting on Thursday 11th June where the request would be considered by Trustees.

(c)    Andy Dean offered to try to identify the best person to represent rural LEPS on the stakeholder group.

(d)   David Inman advised that although a response from Defra was still awaited on the question of a letter of support he was hopeful that there would eventually be a positive outcome.

(e)   David Inman referred to the two leaflets and confirmed that ‘Under a Rural Lens’ would be updated regularly.

2.   Discussion items- Current and Future Research
(a)    Brian Wilson provided an update on the progress of work on the nine selected topic areas-six had been drafted and three were under preparation. Brian commented on selected facts such as the Post Office network having more branches than all banks and building societies combined and 54% of Post Offices being in rural areas. However there seemed to be few available statistics about the accessibility of services.

Brian undertook to circulate drafts as they become available.

(b)   Jane Hart introduced the covering report that had been circulated and referred to the four more detailed reports on income and poverty; health and social care; loneliness and isolation; and the adverse impacts of others. Mention was also made of the various maps contained in the appendix. Those reports and maps can be viewed at:

(c)    Graham Biggs advised that it was intended to promote the vulnerability research and that contact was being made with ‘Countryfile’. Calor had also kindly offered to identify those key issues that they felt would particularly catch attention. Age UK would be asked for a supportive comment.  Other ideas discussed included: ‘Farming Today’; MPs with rural constituencies; Older People’s champion; Ageing Better; Defra; DWP; Age Action Alliance; Older people’s APPG; and Prof Asthana (regarding health issues). The report would be sent to relevant Government Departments.

The group was informed about proposed changes to the DECC warm home discount criteria whereby older people will have to actively claim benefits to qualify.  This would be likely to disadvantage many older rural residents who are reluctant to claim benefits. (Consultation on the change is expected in October).

Difficulties experienced by Energy Providers in trying to create their required comprehensive Priority Services Registers of vulnerable people was highlighted by Steve Crabb.

(d)   A number of interesting research initiatives by, or on behalf of, stakeholders was briefly described. ( NFU – Farm Broadband Study; Prince’s Countryside Fund- vulnerability of small-scale farming enterprises involving Exeter University; Newcastle University- longitudinal study of small businesses ).  Jane Hart would be grateful to receive links to these. She can be contacted at

(e)   The group considered that it would be valuable to next produce a ‘Snapshot of Rural England’ presenting a variety of statistics in an accessible format. Local Authorities and others would then be able contrast their local characteristics with the national rural picture.  After some discussion it was also agreed the choice for the subsequent 2016/ 2017 research might be between looking at the issues facing Third Sector and Commercial Sector providers of Social Care in rural areas OR a study around Dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis and care. Jane Hart to email a scoping outline for both these potential reports to allow comment as to preference by e mail from Stakeholders.

3.       Items for Information

(a)    Directors Meeting- Much of the thoughts had been covered in earlier discussions.  Consideration would however also be given about how more emphasis could be given in future documentation and in the ‘Wall of Support’ and Rural Lens documentation to the support Core Supporters were providing.

(b)   The budget was circulated and certain aspects were clarified by Graham Biggs.

(c)    David Inman reported that the meeting with Supporters had been extremely positive.

(d)   David Inman advised that the website is being incrementally expanded. It will provide an opportunity to disseminate relevant rural research stakeholders’ organisations as well as that out by Universities with a rural interest. Thought will also be given to how a Utilities Network might be facilitated and what such an area might contain.

Date of next meetings
The next meeting will be held on 7th November at the CLA offices, London and a meeting with UKRPPRG on 5th December.