The Countryside Agency which advises government on issues relating to the social, economic and environmental well being of the English countryside, has urged more joined-up thinking from policy makers and service providers alike in tackling the problems of providing rural services. It has called on all those involved in providing the vital services that help keep England’s rural communities vibrant and viable to consider the possibilities and benefits of providing more than one service from a single location.Access to basic services in rural areas, especially for the low paid and unemployed, those without transport, young people and the elderly, has been identified as the key issue. The most promising response to the issue is to provide services jointly through one outlet. The economies of scale and synergies created by combining one service with another helps to maintain viability.
Service providers are being encouraged to think about all the ways they can work together to provide services to rural areas, for example joined up ways of working, partnership working and pooled budgets, and new ways of delivering key services perhaps by using new technologies. It is pioneering this approach with a number of initiatives to provide key services to rural areas from one outlet, such as the Waters Upton co-location project in Shropshire. Here one centre will provide services as diverse as a shop and post office, ICT and ICT training, tax and benefits information, a chiropodist and a homeworkclub.
The Agency is supporting the Consignia pilot one stop shop project “Your Guide” which is trailing the provision of government services at post offices throughout Leicestershire and Rutland – see Publicnet Briefing 14 September 2001.