rural standard for access to broadband in schools is to be
introduced. A standard for Inland Revenue advice is also now
included. This demonstrates the government's continuing drive to
services they need.
'Rural services standard 2002' sets out the level of access to
services that people living in rural areas can expect for the coming
year. It fulfils the government's commitment set out in the Rural
White Paper to review and revise the rural services standard annually
in the light of advice from the Countryside Agency. It shows how the
government departments and agencies are working in partnership with
local organisations to tackle social exclusion in rural areas and
improve access to services.
Rural affairs minister Alun Michael said:
'We are determined to ensure that people living in rural communities
have fair access to key public services, so that they can enjoy a
decent quality of life. This is why the government is co-operating
with local groups to provide better public transport, housing,
education, health services, childcare, shops, banks, post offices and
Chairman of the Countryside Agency Ewen Cameron said:
'Rural Services Standard First Progress Report 2001/02 establishes a
baseline for measuring progress. It shows the need to do more to
refine the Standard, so that service delivery can be more accurately
measured. The Agency will continue to work with government, local
authorities and others, not just about the process, but about the
real practicalities of how we improve access to services for rural
'There is a need to ensure that all departments understand
exactly what information is required and to make arrangements to
collect it in a consistent manner.' This is being addressed through
the work by the Countrysid e Agency and DEFRA to rural-proof
The Countryside Agency is now developing a childcare indicator and
monitoring population distances from GPs and dentists. This will
give a fuller picture of how rural services are delivered.
Over the next year it will also investigate the scope for a common
rural standard for police forces and monitor the rural-take up of the
funding for UK Online.
1. The 'Rural services standard 2002' is available here.
2. The first rural services standard was published in the Rural
White Paper in November 2000 (Cm4909). The Countryside Agency's
Progress Report covers the period 2001 to 2002.
3. The first rural proofing annual report was published in April
(available on the Countryside Agency website,
PublicationID=517) and a
revised rural checklist will be published next month.
4. The rural service standards - as set out in the Rural White Paper
covers a range of issues:
- presumption against closure, for example rural schools;
- indicators on access level, for example transport;
- geographical access standards, for example location and opening
hours of libraries;
- response time targets, for example emergency services;
- telephone services, for example on line information on child care
- help with fares, for example claiming travel costs for attending