A Shareholders’ Guide to Rural Services
Author: Carnegie UK Trust
Good access to a wide range of services is one characteristic of a sustainable community. Over the last decade, however, rural areas have experienced a gradual withdrawal of services due to the pressures of centralisation – and serious cuts in local government finances are looming. There is a growing awareness that beyond an entitlement to essential services, rural communities have an important role to play in determining what else can be provided. Further, we have started to think about residents less as passive recipients of services but more as shareholders, with public sector leaders ‘the Board’.
Evidence gathered during Carnegie’s Rural Action Research Programme (2005–2009) has enabled us to have a deeper understanding of the ingredients of successful community involvement in the delivery of services. Since then, we have been working intensively in rural areas: areas that face many well-documented challenges, mostly related to geography and demographics (islands; remote areas; small, ageing and dispersed communities) and low-paid (often seasonal) employment. We believe that rural areas will provide a test bed for innovative solutions to service delivery in neighbourhoods everywhere. Rural communities in some places are already contributing actively to the planning, managing, delivery, evaluation and monitoring of services; this against a chorus of alarming headlines in local newspapers about the likely impact of cuts.
In this publication, we share ideas from the pioneers about the potential of community organisations and local social enterprises to respond to the services challenge, looking in detail at associated funding, skills, procurement and regulatory issues. We will challenge the assumption that services have to be provided in the way that they have since the creation of the Welfare State. We aim to share these ideas in this policy booklet with public sector commissioning bodies, social enterprise service providers and communities.
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