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By Jennifer Taylor ...
By Jennifer Taylor

Councils have been given a lead role in delivering services to rural communities, by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Defra's Rural Strategy 2004 is a response to a review by government adviser Lord Haskins.

He looked at the allocation of rural funding and how rural policies are developed and acted on in England.

Cornwall CC head of economic development David Pattison said taking the lead 'would give political ownership by the council and make it more linked to our governance'.

Hambleton DC economic development manager and vice-chair of the Institution of Economic Development Geoff Herbert said: 'I am sure most forward-thinking local authorities would welcome the opportunity to take these actions forward. Local authorities have contact, knowledge and engagement with the local community.'

But he said the emphasis on regional and sub-regional devolution 'did not go far enough . . . the only part that talks about devolving funds to local authorities is the pathfinder'.

Devon CC executive member for economic regeneration Derrick Spear (Lib Dem) said: 'We are pleased to see Defra clearly recognises the vital contribution local authorities make in relation to the delivery of rural services, but we want to ensure that proposals to enhance that role are adequately funded.'

LGA rural commission chair Paul Bettison (Con) said: 'This is a real landmark for central and local government relations because we made the recommendations to Defra which has taken them on board. Now it is up to local government to show we can deliver.'

Country values: An action plan

-- Take lead responsibility for delivery of schemes and services to rural communities - a pathfinder will be chosen for each region.

-- Regulate compliance with environmental protection and agree standards for delivery with the Environment Agency.

-- Take the lead local role in co-ordinating general regulation and compliance advice on farm premises.

-- Develop public service agreements with shared local and central government targets for the delivery of rural policies.

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