Headlines: September 27th, 2012

Rural communities could lose a vital part of their livelihood unless a better and more sustainable way is found to support 10,000 village and community halls.

Some 80,000 volunteers who run the halls, which provide an essential hub for community activity, social support and crucial services, are struggling with loss of funding and the increasing needs of people who use them.

This warning comes from the Rural Community Action Network which provides a support service for volunteers who own and manage rural community buildings on behalf of their community. RCAN has launched a national campaign to highlight its support for those volunteers and to demonstrate the valuable role community halls play in people’s lives. However, cuts to its own budgets and increasing demands for its services mean its own work is under threat. It is calling for Government, local authorities and other policy-makers to work together nationally and locally to decide how best to invest their reduced resources to help maintain the valuable support service RCAN provides.

“Community and village halls underpin rural life. Each one provides a vital venue for a range of services and local activities to take place – often things which local authorities are not able to provide,” said Deborah Clarke, RCAN’s Rural Community Buildings Officer. “As these things are done on a voluntary basis, demand for the skills, experience and knowledge that the Rural Community Action Network can provide is increasing. However, at the same time easily accessible community development type support services are reducing.

She added: “We recognise that electronic communications play an important role in today’s changing society but websites and online training and advice should enhance services already available, not replace them. Targeted and appropriate funding is needed for village and community halls, particularly as the government agenda on local commissioning for a range of services, including local health care, will need spaces such as halls.

RCAN has called on Government, local authorities and other policy-makers to work together nationally and locally to decide how their reduced resources can be invested to maintain the delivery of services so that volunteers who manage these vital facilities get the support and help they need.