UK Rural Policy and Practitioners Group Meeting – 5 December 2016

Notes of UK Rural Policy and Practitioners Group held on 5 December 2016, London

The meeting was attended by:
– Jane Atterton- Scotland’s Rural College
– John Powell- CCRI, University of Gloucestershire
– Paul Milbourne- University of Cardiff
– Graham Biggs, David Inman, Andy Dean, Jane Hart – Rural England

Apologies were received from:
Brian Wilson (Rural England)

– To download the paper presented at the meeting regarding the Proposal for a Rural Services Evidence Centre (Paul Milbourne) click here

The meeting took place at the Soroptomists Club, 63 Bayswater Road. It commenced at 12 noon and was chaired by Graham Biggs.

The minutes of the previous year’s meeting were agreed subject to the deletion of the words “Scottish rural proofing is also strong”.

Graham  informed the group that Rural England’s most recent research on the State of Rural Services had been completed and would be officially launched at a Parliamentary reception on 17 January.

He then expressed his concern about the potential impacts of Brexit on rural England and in particular the risk of monies previously given to rural areas from the EU being redistributed to other places and sectors with strong lobbying powers. A cohesive rural voice would have more impact but it is hard to achieve.

Devolution, revenue support grant settlements and the phasing out of business rates are all of concern since rural areas will always need some Government subsidy.

Paul Milbourne said that although rural proofing in Wales is still there it does not have a high profile. Rural seems to be low down on the Welsh Government’s agenda with little research or analysis being undertaken.  Local Authorities tend to talk about rural issues in the context of the austerity agenda.

Jane Atterton commented that the Scottish Government’s 5 year strategic Research Programme included significant funding for rural research including environmental issues , demographic trends, and community resilience. The new Scottish Parliament has 2 Committees with a rural focus, one for rural economy and the other for the rural environment. An Islands Bill and a Scottish Rural Infrastructure Plan are both expected in 2017. In summary quite a lot is happening and although austerity is an issue it appears to be lower on the agenda than in England.

There was discussion about the Big Lottery which has a rural programme focusing on poverty and structural obstacles to community led initiatives. It was commented that their activity seems somewhat localised and concentrated on the East of England. Nonetheless David Inman reported that he is trying to secure a meeting with them.

Paul Milbourne emphasised the need for more collaborative working between different organisations and the need to come together to produce more comprehensive research. This would include closer links between academic and user groupings. There was general agreement in principle with paragraphs 1-3 of Paul’s circulated paper but  more detail was needed in respect of para 4.  Graham Biggs observed that dependable surveys can be difficult but there is possibly scope to explore 1 or 2 topics of common interest ,e.g. isolation or fuel poverty, each year. Daniel Worth in RSN may be able to undertake some analysis. Graham also advised that Daniel is compiling a compendium of key facts about rural England.

Graham outlined the structure and funding of Rural England CIC and emphasised that it is non-lobbying .

Other matters raised/discussed:

  • Potential for bids to research councils
  • Collation of rural research
  • Investigation of current research on Brexit
  • Website presence for the group (would benefit from being easier to access)
  • Suggestion that Aileen Stockdale from Queen’s Belfast be asked to join the group

It was agreed that more frequent meetings would be valuable. Monday 20th February 2017 was suggested as a provisional date for the next meeting with Monday 6th March 2017 as an alternative.

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