Headlines: May 26th, 2005

Voluntary organisations in rural areas have had mixed experiences of regionalisation according to a new report looking into how the voluntary sector has responded to its changing relationship with government bodies at a national, regional and local level.The report has been produced by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to examine the effect of the Government’s Rural Strategy of last year on voluntary and community organisations working in rural areas and its future implications.

Claire Steel, the Rural Policy Officer at NCVO said the report revealed that the strategy had had both positive and negative impacts on rural organisations, which were now cautious about devoting further resources to future engagement with the regional agenda.

The document was launched at a special conference, “Rural Reinvention: Breaking new ground or just using new names?” at which representatives of voluntary bodies discussed its research and recommendations at a series of seminars. They also had the opportunity to question representatives from regional government about how Government Offices for the Regions and Regional Development Agencies will address the needs of rural communities, and how they intend to engage with the rural voluntary sector.

The conference also looked at plans for Defra’s new rural social and communities programme, which will tackle social exclusion in rural areas by helping communities develop their own solutions to their problems. Other topics were Governance in small organisations, social enterprise and community involvement in rural areas and the Compact and engagement.