South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne hosted a Rural Vulnerability Day in Parliament, to highlight pressures on services in rural areas.
Mr Dunne, who is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Services, opened a day of discussion and debate, which focussed around the State of Rural Services 2018 report produced by independent research group Rural England.
The Report took an in-depth look at 8 key areas of rural service provision in contrast with more urban areas. These were: buses and community transport; broadband and mobile connectivity; public library services; hospitals; Public Health services; young people’s services; shops and online shopping; and public advice services. The Report warns that rural areas are consistently losing out with less public funding directed towards rural residents than in urban areas, despite the higher cost of providing essential services such as social care, education and public transport in rural parts.
The research also made clear that, despite ongoing investment, a basic phone call cannot be made inside 33 per cent of rural buildings on all four mobile networks (EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone) - an issue that affects just three per cent of urban premises.
Lord Gardiner, Minister for Rural Affairs, addressed the event acknowledging the need for more joined up work across Government regarding rural impacts of policy development. He confirmed that 14 government departments now have a senior civil service official appointed to champion rural issues.
Mr Dunne said: “As Chair of the APPG for Rural Services, I was pleased to host the Rural Vulnerability Day in Parliament. This was an opportunity to bring together rural groups and stakeholders, so we can make a compelling case for pushing rural areas up the agenda for the government, backed by data.
The State of Rural Services 2018 report compiled by Rural England gave clear themes for discussion and debate, and defined areas in which we know the government must do more.
While rural connectivity is improving, it was disappointing to see mobile and broadband connectivity still lags way behind urban areas. When so many opportunities for employment, services and combatting social isolation can be improved by technology, this must be a priority.
The Government is expected to undertake a Spending Review in coming months to outline future spending priorities, and I intend to take a leading role in championing the rural voice.”
Photo: (l to r) Philip Dunne MP, Rebecca Pow MP, Margaret Clark CBE (Rural England Stakeholder), Brian Wilson (author of the report and chairman of Rural England CIC) and Graham Biggs (Chief Executive of Rural Services Network)