Rural Services

Services are the basis of any community, for example access to shops, healthcare and activities. All create and enhance a feeling of belonging and a sustainable future for the area. However the number of services in rural communities has seen steady and significant decline and outlets remain at risk. In many Parish Plans, residents of the community often highlight the fact that local services are disappearing as a cause for concern, particularly because of the impact on those members of their community who have most difficulty accessing services further away. 

Re-localising services can mean less travel, reduced costs to local people who are in most need of the services, can help engender a stronger community spirit and in the longer term, can deliver the potential to generate more sustainable rural communities. Like all the members of Rural Community Action Network (RCAN), we at Northants ACRE believe rural communities should be empowered to influence and even deliver rural services so that local people have access to a range of fundamental services tailored to their needs. We help promote activities that will deliver sustainable services for rural areas including those developed by communities themselves.

National ACRE has compiled a Policy Position Paper on Services that gives further background to this and offers examples of communities who have used community led planning to identify needs, consider the role and viability of current services and prioritise action on those which may be most at risk. You can read about the many innovative ways communities have worked together to retain or increase services in their area from setting up a community run Cafe Exchange in a village when the shop and post office closed, to contacting a range of service providers through broadband who then use innovative ways of delivering goods to people in remote rural areas.  Click on the picture to go to the document.

Delivering community libraries – new research

The Arts Council England and the Local Government Association (LGA) have published research into the different ways in which communities are involved in library service delivery and management.  Learning from Experience: guiding principles for Local Authorities is the result of research carried out in July 2012 and provides a snapshot of the various ways in which communities are involved in library provision in England. Since the research took place, the number of operating community libraries has risen from 178 to 254. In addition, new approaches and models have emerged and it is possible new research will be commissioned later this year. You can also read about the case studies used in the research.

Examples of initiatives for community services

  • An £87,000 boost to help a community spirited village in West Dorset provide a new post office and affordable housing. Read more…
  • South Lakeland District Council in Cumbria is freezing the cost of affordable homes to help fend off a housing crisis. More details here.
  • The Plunket Foundation has a number of examples of current co-operative pubs here. If you would like to do something similar with your community, email
  • Community food enterprises: these are businesses run by communities for their benefit, which are involved in at least one part of growing, harvesting, processing, distributing, selling or serving local food e.g. farmers markets, community-owned shops, community supported agriculture, country markets, food co-operatives and many others. Check out Making Local Food Work.

Useful links:

National ACRE has a number of briefings and topic sheets on rural services including on village pubs, shops and post offices, that you can download for free here.

National Association of Community Run Shops:  This is a collection of Community Shops around the country who have banded together to create an email forum, where shops having questions can receive answers from those who have already “done it.” There are over 175 shops in touch with each other.

Plunkett Community Shop Network: This site aims to provide an online meeting point for all those actively involved in community shops within the UK and beyond. You can register for free to use the website and receive their newsletter.

Village SOS is an exciting initiative by Big Lottery Fund to launch a rural revival and inspire people to start community businesses that will breathe new life into their areas and create jobs.

Are you interested in buying local land or buildings that are important to your community? Do you think you could do better taking over a local service and running it? Have you dreamed of developing new homes and facilities for your community? If you answer Yes to any of these, then you may be interested in finding out about your new Community Rights under the Localism Act. Seehow they can help your community achieve a sustainable future.

Social enterprises are commercial ventures with social, ethical or environmental goals at their core. Click on the picture to find information on setting up a social enterprise including legal issues, funding, ethical business practices and examples of existing social enterprises as well as expert advice on how you can become a social entrepreneur.

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