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COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY BACKS GOVERNMENT'S RURAL POLICY

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The decline of rural services has been reversed as a result of extra government and lottery funding, the annual Cou...
The decline of rural services has been reversed as a result of extra government and lottery funding, the annual Countryside Agency survey has found.

Rural transport provision reached two thirds of parishes last year compared to 60% in 1997, while the number of parishes with a village hall or meeting place has increased from 70% to 85%.

Three out of 10 rural parishes still have no bus service at all, accounting for some 1.75 million people, most of whom live in communities of 100 or less.

Rural post offices are still disappearing, with 546 offices closing since 1997. The survey shows one in 15 households lives more than 2km from a post office.

Pam Warhurst, deputy chair of the agency, said rural transport partnerships and the rural bus subsidy had improved services, but more needed to be done on local services in the countryside.

She warned: 'We are worried about the vulnerability of these services, especially in smaller settlements. The pressures on the post office and doubts about the future of the universal bank could lead to further

closures.'

If the government was to meet its own commitments to service standards set out in the rural white paper it would have to increase investment, she said.

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