ACRE disappointed by response to rural report
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

The Government’s response to a recent select committee report reveals there is still much work to be done to ensure a fair deal for rural communities, ACRE said today.

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) gave written evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee’s report on rural communities.

The Government’s response to that report, published today (October 28), reveals the need for Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) to continue to use intelligence gleaned from communities to shape future policy, ACRE said.

“We will be responding in full to the issues raised in the report over the coming weeks. In the meantime, we welcome the acknowledgement given in this report to the work of the ACRE Network in supporting rural communities."

ACRE, the national umbrella body for England’s 38 rural community councils, is the country’s biggest rural network, with more than 40,000 contacts at grass roots level.

Chief executive Janice Banks said: “The select committee made a wide range of recommendations that would go a long way to ensuring Government policies take the unique needs of rural communities into account.

“However, we are disappointed to see that the Government does not agree with all of these recommendations. There is obviously still much to do to ensure that rural dwellers do not get a raw deal compared with their urban counterparts.

“The evidence submitted by ACRE to the committee supported many of the recommendations made and the latest survey of our Network provides hard evidence of the need for all Government Ministers to listen carefully to the views of rural residents.

“ACRE has a long-standing working relationship with Defra and is perfectly positioned to ensure that the Department has access to rural dwellers who will feel the impact of Government policy.

“We will be responding in full to the issues raised in the report over the coming weeks. In the meantime, we welcome the acknowledgement given in this report to the work of the ACRE Network in supporting rural communities.

“Defra funding for the Network has ensured we have been there to help communities find solutions to the raft of challenges they face, from cuts in public transport and the closure of village shops, to the dearth of affordable housing and lack of broadband coverage.

“Equally importantly, it has enabled us to lever in funding from other organisations. The £2.8m Defra investment in ACRE and its Network in 2012/13 alone enabled us to gain £8.4m in additional support for rural communities.

“We hope the Committee’s clear support for professional support networks such as ours will encourage the Government to continue to fund our initiatives and intelligence gathering.”