Headlines: February 29th, 2008

Partnership working is key to the success of attempts to improve rural services, according to the results of a Government programme published by Defra. It also shows that local councils which show leadership and innovation play an important role in finding ways to deliver better services.

Nine local authorities have been involved in the Rural Delivery Pathfinder programme, working in eight projects to build on improvements already being made. The results of the two year programme, covering Shropshire, Lancashire the Fenland of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, the Humber area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Dorset, Hampshire, the Peak District and West Durham, have been published in ‘Rural challenges, local solutions’.

It highlights the finding that partnership working is critical to success and that communities need to be directly involved in defining what they want and how it should be delivered. It also commends the leadership of local authorities.

“The rural delivery Pathfinders also show that when local authorities have a stronger voice and greater freedom to find solutions, they can better meet the needs of their communities,” the Local Government Minister, John Healey, said as he launched the report. “This innovative programme has achieved important improvements for people in rural areas, and gives us a better understanding of the issues affecting rural services,” he said.

Rural Affairs Minister Jonathan Shaw said the achievements of each of the Pathfinders was distinctive and reflected local priorities and circumstances. “I congratulate the local authorities involved for the success they’ve achieved and I look forward to seeing them and others share the learning and build on that success,” he added.

The report details what has been done by various pathfinders, including a scheme in Lancashire where the Pathfinder worked with childcare and library services to find ways of taking services to people supported by the County Council. In Shropshire the Rural Pathfinder used Video conferencing to deliver Citizens Advice Bureau services, and council services were provided in village halls or by working in partnership with the Fire and Rescue Service using their outreach vehicle.