Europe on agenda for rural champions conference
by Claire McGine, Head of Communications

The quest for European funding will be on the agenda for the leaders of England’s biggest rural network at their annual conference this week (November 6/7).

The chief executives and chairs of the country’s 38 rural community councils will get together with their national umbrella body ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) in Loughborough, Leicestershire.

The two-day event gives delegates the chance to exchange ideas and discuss how they can help communities tackle barriers to economic growth, such as lack of broadband and poor mobile coverage.

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: “Top of the agenda this year will be to discuss how we can attract European funding into our rural communities, so that we can continue to help them find innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

“With the first meeting of the European Rural Parliament(ERP) due to take place later this month, we’ll be debating how the experiences of grass roots organisations like ours can shape future policy and influence decision makers.

“The ACRE Network has a proven track record in helping the UK Government to ‘rural proof’ its policies – we’re hoping to repeat that success on the European stage.”

Ms Banks, who will attend the ERP meeting in Brussels on November 13, added: “Our role is to speak up for communities at the highest level in our efforts to make sure rural people get a fair deal.”

The ACRE conference will also feature highlights of the latest survey of the Network, which reaches 40,000 grass roots contacts in 11,000 rural communities.

Results of the survey, which covers the rural economy, broadband, transport, services, community energy and fuel poverty, affordable housing and planning, will be fed back to Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) as part of its funding agreement with the ACRE Network.

Delegates will also share best practice from the hundreds of activities they undertake in communities every year- from running oil-buying collectives to setting up ‘good neighbour’schemes.