Notes of Rural England Stakeholder Group meeting with the UK Rural Policy and Practitioner Research Group
London – 5 November 2018
Margaret Clark (Chair); Richard Quallington (ACRE, Vice Chair); Jane Atterton (SRUC); Janet Dwyer (CCRI); Mark Shucksmith (Newcastle Uni); Lois Lane (CPRE); Kamna Muralidharan(Big Lottery); Trevor Cherrett (TCPA); Claire Maxim (Germinate); Maddy Fitzgerald (PCF); Sarah Palmer (NFYFC); Brian Wilson (RE); David Inman (RE); Jane Hart (RE)
Graham Biggs (RE); Jo Lavis (RE); Paul Hamblin (National Parks England); Sheena Asthana (Plymouth Uni); Ruth McAreavey (UKRPPRG Convenors); Aileen Stockdale (UKRPPRG Convenors); Ian Sherriff (Plymouth Uni); David Webb (FSB); Polly Gibb (WiRE); John Birtwistle (First Group);James Alcock (Plunkett); Derek Egan (Defra); Alison McLean (ex CRC); Claire Saunders (PCF); Charles Smith (FCN); Elizabeth Clark (Germinate); Martin Gorringe (Defra); Suzanne Clear (NFU)
- The meeting started at 1.30 p.m. when the Chair welcomed those present.
- Matters arising from the minutes of the meeting on 4 June
The minutes were accepted subject to an addition noting that ACRE is also conducting rural services research.
Brian Wilson advised that ‘The State of Rural Services’ chapters have now been fully drafted. The 8 Chapters (on local buses and community transport; broadband and mobile connectivity; hospitals; public health services; public library services; retail-shops and online; young people’s services; and personal advice services) will be presented to the AGM next month. Publication is anticipated fairly early in 2019.
- Matters arising from the joint meeting on 4 December 2017
Janet Dwyer confirmed that the research by CCRI, for Wales Centre for Public Policy, on ‘An Evidence Review of Rural Poverty Interventions’ has now been published. This can be accessed at: https://www.wcpp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/What-Works-in-Tackling-Rural-Poverty.pdf
The Welsh Government has convened a working group to consider the findings but the Brexit process and uncertain distribution of resource seems to be holding up their response.
- Update on the working of the UKRPPG convenors 2018
Brian Wilson advised that the group had held three virtual meeting plus the meeting held on the morning of 5 November.
The group had explored the possibility of creating comparable data sets across the UK on subjects including demography, access to health care; housing tenure and housing affordability. Data is not always totally consistent across the UK and sometimes there is more than one potential data source. Whilst progress has been made it needs further work to pull it together for presentation to users and finding that resource is difficult. Ideally, the project would be bundled up with other work on a rural survey panel and have a combined budget of about £50,000.
Janet Dwyer informed the group that there has been a reorganisation of the former Research Councils into one organisation called ‘Research England’. Competition for funding rural research is highly competitive with a recent round attracting 127 applications with funding for only 7.
In discussion, Lois Lane mentioned recent research including some by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on private rents and local affordability. Mark Shucksmith commented on the difficulty in obtaining data below Local Authority level.
- The Presentations
Janet introduced some initial data findings from an online survey conducted by CCRI. The research team is currently pulling together some key issues for possible use by Countryfile, and a fuller analysis (including qualitative information) should be available by early January.
The early findings included:
- The sample included 714 rural participants
- The sample was self-selecting and older people, women, the financially secure and homeowners were over-represented.
- 59% of participants owned their home outright
- 34% felt that some development “where I live” is needed but 33% felt that further development would threaten the rural character of the place “where I live”
- 32% felt local people should be prioritised in new developments
There were questions about the extent to which tenure may be reflected in the perspectives of respondents, and whether length of residence affects the views expressed. These will form part of future analysis.
This survey formed part of an important wider project to develop a rural panel and served the additional purpose of identifying people who would be prepared to participate in future.
Jane told the Group about collaborative research carried out by SRUC with the James Hutton Institute as part of a larger Scottish Government project.
The research looks at demographic and economic change and how these affect services and community resilience.
Remote rural areas in Scotland are defined as output areas which are a greater than 30 minute drive/ ferry ride away from the nearest settlement of 10,000 or more people. Remote rural areas cover over 48% of the area of Scotland and 135,000 people live in those areas (equivalent to 2.6% of the total population). The population had been in long term decline except for a slight reversal from 2001-2011. Population has declined again since 2011 and a 25% decrease is predicted for the period 2011-2046. Amongst the working age population 15-64 the decline is predicted to be 33% over the same timeframe.
There are persistent and growing rural inequalities. In terms of services remote rural areas have declining provision and examples were given relating to child care, care homes and school numbers.
Jane emphasised the need for differentiated place- based rural policy which can respond to local circumstances; a better understanding of policy impacts on service provision; and deeper consideration of small town – rural linkages. There is a fundamental need for differentiated policy to be locally owned. Currently however many Government policies are implemented top-down.
Additional points arising in discussion included:
- The Scottish Government expressly does not rural proof because so much of the country is rural
- There is a commitment, through the Island Bill, to island proofing
- The potential for city region and rural partnerships.
- Creation of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency
- Highlands and Islands Enterprise investment in places not being bottom-up
Brexit Implications for agriculture and rural development- Professor Janet Dwyer, CCRI
Janet expressed concerns about the possible fall-out from Brexit particularly in terms of wider rural development.
The current European context of moving away from efficiency in production to a wider agenda on environmental and wider rural issues contrasts markedly from the apparent UK Government’s focus on ‘public money for public goods’ although with little clarity on the quantum of funding. Other bodies and organisations also seem focused on replacing CAP funding.
The UK already spends relatively small amounts on rural development and, worryingly, the Agriculture Bill currently before Parliament focuses on environmental land management and farm productivity with no provision for the wider needs of local communities. There is no clarity as to whether this will be picked up elsewhere within or outside Defra.
Additional points arising in discussion included:
- Lack of assessment (rural proofing) on the impacts of the Agriculture Bill on rural communities
- LEP effectiveness in targeting rural needs
- Political will to address wider rural development
- Massive expansion of Defra team of economists
- Any other Business
The Centre for Rural Economy (Newcastle University), the Rural Policy Centre (Scotland’s Rural College) and the University of Aberystwyth are holding an event to launch their ‘After Brexit: 10 Key Questions for Rural Policy in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’. This event will take place at the House of Lords, on Tuesday 4 December 2018 from 5-7pm and is sponsored by Lord Cameron of Dillington.
Prince’s Countryside Fund to publish ‘Recharging Rural: a Village Survival Guide’ next summer.
Rural England Directors are preparing a Business Plan for the next Stakeholder Group meeting.
Date of next Rural England Stakeholders meeting: 3 December 2018 when the role of stakeholders will be discussed as an agenda item.