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ONE-STOP-SHOPS ARE KEY TO THE FUTURE OF RURAL SERVICES

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There needs to be more joined-up thinking from policy makers and service ...
There needs to be more joined-up thinking from policy makers and service

providers alike in tackling the problems of providing rural services, according

to the Countryside Agency.

Speaking at the Countryside Agency's joining up rural services conference yesterday

Ewen Cameron, rural advocate and Countryside Agency

chairman, called on all those involved in providing the vital services that

help keep England's rural communities vibrant and viable to consider the

possibilities and benefits of providing more than one service from a single

location.

Mr Cameron said: 'The accessibility of a wide variety of services in our

countryside has been in decline for some time now. On top of this we are

seeing more rural services threatened by the impact of foot and mouth disease,

particularly in those areas which are heavily dependent on tourism. Accessing

basic services in rural areas can be difficult and causes serious problems,

especially for the low paid and unemployed, those without transport, young

people and the elderly.

'Providing services jointly through one outlet is one of the most promising

ways of retaining and enhancing rural services. The economies of scale and

synergies created by combining one service with another means there can be

services provided where they would otherwise by uneconomic, as well as

benefiting the customer who only has to visit one location. Today's conference

is encouraging service providers to think about all the ways they can work

together to provide services to rural areas, for example joined up ways of

working, partnership working and pooled budgets, and new ways of delivering key

services perhaps by using new technologies. The case for joint provision is

definitely there and we hope that this conference will encourage more people to

come up with innovative ways of providing services to benefit rural

communities.'

The Countryside Agency is involved in a number of initiatives to provide key

services to rural areas from one outlet, such as the Waters Upton co-location

project in Shropshire. Here one centre will provide services as diverse as a

shop and post office, ICT and ICT training, tax and benefits information, a

chiropodist and a homework club. The Countryside Agency's Vital Villages grant

schemes is also providing funding for villages to improve local transport,

create services that will benefit the community and plans for the future

development of a village. For further details about the Vital Villages grants

call 0870 333 0170 or visit the Countryside Agency website.

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