Funding pledge relief for Rural Action Yorkshire

Leah Swain, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire.

Leah Swain, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire.

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Funds crucial to the work of Yorkshire’s rural community council, and 37 others working across England to help remote communities survive, have finally been assured by the Government.

More than 13,000 people had signed a petition calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to commit fresh funding to the rural charities before an existing agreement expired in March.

Until this week, Defra had refused to be drawn on a decision which left rural community councils, including Rural Action Yorkshire, concerned for the future of key project work which includes helping village halls to become established community hubs, community support for older and vulnerable people and helping communities to keep those residents safe, well and warm over winter.

Rural Action Yorkshire receives £96,000 a year from Defra to enable it to take a pro-active role in assisting communities where service provision has ebbed away as a consequence of local and central government austerity cuts.

The investment is used to subsidise the charity’s support for village halls and parish councils so they get unlimited help over the phone and by email for just £35 a year.

On Thursday, with pressure mounting on Defra to react to the petition, as government departments are required to do when petitions gain over 10,000 signatures, a spokesman for the department announced that a decision had been reached.

The spokesman told Country Week: “We can confirm that rural community councils will be receiving £2.3 million of funding for the next financial year.”

The funding total, which is split between rural community councils via parent organisation Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) remains unchanged from the funding received for the current financial year.

Leah Swain, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire, said: “Rural Action Yorkshire welcomes the announcement that Defra will continue to invest in the network of 38 rural community councils. This is a significant investment and will allow us to continue our support to rural communities over the next year.”

Earlier this week, she warned that the charity would have to “think hard” about what services it would have to reduce if Defra funding ceased.

The ACRE co-ordinated petition received huge support after links to the document circulated online.

Mrs Swain added: “I want to thank everyone who showed support for rural communities and our work – it really has been an amazing response. I have been touched by the emails and letters I have received from partners and communities saying how much they value the work of RAY and the support from our hard working team.”

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks added: “This is good news for ACRE and its nationwide Network of rural community councils. We would like to thank everyone who showed their support for rural communities and the work we do.”

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