Headlines: August 20th, 2010

The Government is being urged to put parish and town councils at the heart of renewing rural areas. The call, from the National Association of Local Councils, follows the publication of the Rural Coalition’s report, The Rural Challenge, which warns that many villages could wither unless radical action is taken to safeguard them.

The Coalition is made up of a number of organisations with a stake in the future of rural areas. It wants the Government to use its Big Society idea to allow rural communities to shape their own future.

The Challenge report said that with the likelihood of 20 per cent cuts in public spending, rural services would be worst hit, creating melt-down in villages where those services are most needed. It also warned that house prices would be out of reach of all but the wealthiest in rural areas and that pay rates would continue to be up to 20 per cent below equivalent urban levels.

The NALC welcomed the report, particularly the suggestion that residents, entrepreneurs, community groups and councils should be given more power to bring about the positive changes the countryside needed. Councillor Michael Chater, the Chairman of the Association, said: “For too long rural villages and areas across the country have been disadvantaged economically, across a range of services. Most of these rural villages have local councils which can and do play incredibly important roles as community hubs, as agents of local delivery and change.”