MP backs call for village hall Parliamentary Group
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon is backing a campaign to form an All-Party Parliamentary Group on village halls.

The idea sprang from an initiative by BBC Radio 4’s PM programme to set up an APPG on a subject suggested by its listeners.

Mr Bacon appeared on the programme to add his support to the campaign, which was first suggested by Chris Perry-Yates, chairman of a small village hall committee in Shelton with Hardwick, a parish in South Norfolk.

“Our research shows village hall use has trebled over the past 20 years."

Mr Bacon said: “With its customary wit, BBC Radio 4’s PM programme has helped to bring Parliament closer to the people.

“I am delighted to back the campaign for an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Village Halls, especially since the initial suggestion came from one of my constituents.

“What is needed is for village halls to become multipurpose community businesses that can adapt to the many and varied needs of modern rural life.

“The APPG will champion local volunteers and look to share the secrets of the UK’s most successful village halls, like the award-winning Pennoyer Centre in my own constituency.

National charity Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), the umbrella body for England’s 38 rural community councils, has been lobbying MPs to set up the APPG.

The charity, which runs a support service for England’s 10,000 village halls and the 80,000 volunteers who manage them, says rural community buildings need a voice in Parliament.

ACRE and Norfolk Rural Community Council, which supports the 450 community buildings in the county, welcomed Mr Bacon’s support.

Chief Executive Jon Clemo said: ”It’s fantastic news that a Norfolk MP recognises the huge importance of village halls and is willing to get behind this campaign.

“Village halls and other community buildings provide vital infrastructure in rural areas, they are often the hub of community activity providing a space for groups and services that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”

“The halls and the volunteers who run them are often overlooked and suffer from premises legislation designed with urban pubs and clubs in mind.”

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Rural Community Buildings Officer, said: “The humble village hall needs a champion.An APPG for village halls is a brilliant idea as it would allow campaign groups, charities, and other non-governmental organisations to become involved in discussions and influence politicians.

“Our research shows village hall use has trebled over the past 20 years.Targeted and appropriate funding is needed for halls to enable them to continue to be at the heart of rural communities.”