Headlines: July 7th, 2009

A national conference will today examine economic and social exclusion in rural areas as well as discussing issues as diverse as flooding and transport. More than 100 delegates are expected to attend the event in Birmingham organised by the Commission for Rural Communities.

The conference will debate the impact of the recession as well as a number of concerns affecting life in the countryside. The delegates will also be able to explore and challenge evidence and trends for the Commission’s continuing analysis and reporting on rural matters.

Dr Stuart Burgess, who chairs the Commission and is also the Government’s Rural Advocate, said the conference would bring together expert speakers and delegates from different backgrounds to review evidence from a variety of sources and consider the impacts for rural areas. “We shall also reflect on some recurring concerns. Our recent ‘Rural Insights’ research, homes in on a number of issues contributing to social and economic exclusion in rural areas. Whilst people identified some distinct benefits of living in the countryside, this can often mask stark realities of modern day rural life, such as lack of availability of transport to reach essential services,” he said.

Dr Burgess said many people were increasingly worried about the availability of jobs, low wages, the lack of opportunities for younger people and of access to employment information.

Speakers at plenary sessions will be Professor Neil Ward from the University of East Anglia and Lisa Harker of the Institute of Public Policy Research. Workshops, seminars, debates and master classes will cover topics ranging from economic wellbeing to flooding, transport and rural disadvantage. The television presenter, Jonathan Dimbleby, will host a closing question and answer session.