Rural services such as post offices and village schools are to be championed by a group of country-loving MPs. The new cross-party Rural Services group aims to ensure the money allocated to country areas by the Government is used effectively and country dwellers get a fair deal. ‘We will not be a talking shop, but a group with a clear commitment to recommend action on the issues that count in rural communities,’ said Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow who has been elected to chair the 70-strong group.
The Government’s plans to close 2,500 post offices are at top of the group’s agenda. Their first step will be to produce a comprehensive report on the future of rural post offices with positive recommendations. Fuel poverty, bank services, transport and road-pricing, policing and affordable housing will also be addressed.
‘This is an important time for the countryside, with the Government planning to close 2,500 post offices, threats to community hospitals in rural areas and government funding formulae for local authorities favouring urban over rural areas,’ explained Mr Dunne.
David Drew and Dan Rogerson are vice chairs and Baroness Byford will be secretary. ‘There was nothing in the Group’s place before,’ explained a spokesperson. ‘You need 20 members to set up a group but we already have 70.’
The group will be supported in its work by SPARSE, an organisation that represents nearly 60 of England’s most rural local authorities, and the Rural Services Partnership which represents the concerns and issues surrounding the provision of rural services in England.