Northamptonshire rural community support group fighting Government funding cuts

Elizabeth Truss, Secrety of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Elizabeth Truss, Secrety of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

A group supporting rural communities in Northamptonshire has appealed for support against plans to cut Government funding, which it says would reduce the amount of services it was able to offer.

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which provides free information and advice to parish councils and local groups on how to manage and plan services in their area, is facing a withdrawal of funding from the Government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), headed by its Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss.

People in Northamptonshire are being urged to sign a petition set up by ACRE against the funding withdrawal.

Manager of the Hunsbury Hill-based Northamptonshire branch (NACRE), Elaine O’Leary, said: “We have been supported by Government investment for decades. Now, however, we have been advised by civil servants to expect no further funding from Defra.

“If this happens, we are extremely concerned it will have a negative impact on the number of services and projects we can deliver locally.

“We will not be able to recruit any new staff as we would usually do and so we have already had to turn down various projects, including some of our neighbourhood planning workshops, which means that these villages will have to look elsewhere to get the information and advice they need and will most likely have to pay for it.

“These services include things like how to go about getting fast broadband in the area, so they are vital for both residents and local businesses.”

Other support to Northamptonshire communities provided by NACRE and funded by Defra contributions include community planning, village halls support, community website training, speed watch, bulk oil buying and transport directory.

The new Rural Wellbeing Service, starting in March, will also see the group help support isolated and lonely older people in rural communities.

Miss O’Leary said: “We do still have some support from people such as Big Lottery, but if the cuts go ahead then we will be forced to run a limited service.

“To pull the Defra funding now would fracture the ACRE network, undermine decades of government investment and leave the most vulnerable in rural areas with nowhere to go.

“The Network is the only nationwide organisation with a dedicated rural focus; building community resilience, strengthening local enterprise and supporting the most vulnerable in our society. In addition, we are the sole network that provides advice to the 80,000 volunteers who keep England’s 10,000 village halls alive.”

To sign the ACRE Network petition against the Defra funding withdrawal, visit: www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/73418. You can also appeal directly to Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, by writing to her at: Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3JR or email her at: defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk