Headlines: August 23rd, 2002

New standards have been published to ensure that central departments, local councils and other agencies provide improved access to services and work to tackle social exclusion. The standards also give people living in rural areas an idea of the level of access to services they can expect for the coming year.The standards include presumption against closure, for example rural schools as well as standards for access to broadband in schools. There are indicators on access level, for example transport. There are geographical access standards, for example location and opening hours of libraries. There are response time targets, for example emergency services. There are telephone services standards, for example on line information on child care providers. A standard will ensure that people attending benefit offices will receive help with fares and taxpayers are guaranteed access to advice from the Inland Revenue.

The Countryside Agency is seeking to develop a wider range of standards to protect the quality of life for people living in rural communities. These include a childcare indicator and the distances people have to travel to a GP and dentist. The Agency also plans toinvestigate the scope for a common rural standard for police force