Headlines: May 20th, 2004

Local authority policies need to be ‘rural proofed’ according to a new study. The survey says meeting the needs of rural people and thinking through what could potentially affect those who work and live in the countryside is vital for local authorities. The report from the Local Government Association and Countryside Agency highlights how ‘rural proofing’ needs to be embedded more widely in local authority planning and delivery.The study, `Think Rural – a survey of rural proofing in local authorities’ found most English councils that took part felt the idea could be valuable in helping them deliver good, accessible services meeting the needs of rural people. The report goes on to encourage councils, and those involved in Local Strategic Partnerships, to take rural issues into account in all policy development, scrutiny processes and service delivery.

Local authorities ranked the biggest issues for rural communities as transport and housing by a considerable margin, followed by the environment, community safety and the provision of services for young people. No service scored less than 72 per cent when councils were asked which areas would benefit from rural proofing. The authors say this shows clearly that the policy is considered valuable across the board.

Other findings included the fact that almost six out of ten authorities considered rural issues in relation to the Comprehensive Performance Assessment process and 54 per cent did so in relation to Best Value. Fifty-seven per cent of those areas surveyed had a rural partnership and the report says there are many encouraging examples of partnership working between district and county councils.

Pam Warhust, who chairs the Countryside Agency, said it had been working hard to help get rural proofing embedded in policy making in government nationally but if the benefits of the approach were to be felt as widely as possible it was important that it happened at local government level.