News in Brief 22 February 2016

The latest news, views and more from around rural Yorkshire or that have an impact on charities and community groups in our area.

Action with Communities in Rural England

RAY’s parent organisation, ACRE, has published its latest report assessing the impact of Government funding for the ACRE network. The report, which covers the 2014-2015 period, estimates that £2.23m of Government funding resulted in additional funding of £9.03m to the benefit of rural communities across England. The report’s publication comes as Defra is considering funding levels for the ACRE network in light of Government spending cuts. Download the report from the ACRE website (PDF).

Consultations

The Charity Commission are currently consulting on updated guidance to charity trustees regarding their duties with regard to fundraising. Charity fundraising has been in the news for the wrong reasons over the last year or so and the new guidance reflects increasing public concern about some fundraising methods used by larger charities, as well as updating guidance applicable to charities of all sizes. The consultation closes on Thursday 11 February 2016. Charity Commission consultation page.

The Government has announced proposed changes to National Planning Policy which are currently open to consultation. The changes are particularly addressed at housing provision, and include changing the definition of affordable housing, and supporting the Government’s policies on starter homes and home ownership. The consultation is open until Monday 22 February 2016. Government consultation page – documents and online responses.

North Yorkshire County Council is developing a new learning disabilities strategy and is seeking views and evidence from people with learning disabilities, their families and carers, and organisations which work with them. The consultation is open until Sunday 28 February 2016.

HM Revenue and Customs are currently reviewing the effectiveness of the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme. They are asking for evidence of how the scheme works or how it could be improved, with a view to making recommendations for changes that ensure the Scheme meets its objectives without imposing too high an administrative burden on small charities. The Call for Evidence closes on Wednesday 2 March 2016. HMRC consultation details.

Public Transport

Following a reporting and consultation process, North Yorkshire Count y Council have announced that financial support for rural bus services in the county will be cut to £1.5m per year from April 2016. Details of changes to the supported bus services can be found on the NYCC website.

Housing

Rural business leaders have responded to a recent report which identifies a 76% shortfall in affordable housing in rural areas by claiming that Government policies could make the situation even worse. The Country Land and Business Association are calling for rural areas to be exempt from the Government’s push to expand Right to Buy to housing association tenants. RSNOnline, 14 January.

Rural Churches

A new report by the Church of England has identified that half of all CoE churches are in rural areas, home to only 17% of the population, and that 90% of these are listed buildings. The report makes several recommendations about how to secure the future of these buildings, recommendations which are open to consultation until Friday 29 January. RSN Online article | Church of England consultation details.

Charity Governance

The Winter edition of Charity Commission news is out and contains articles on subjects including mismanagement in charities, fundraising guidance, reporting governance costs, and reducing fraud. You can read it and previous issues via the Government website here.

Politics and Government

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has published its report into the performance of Defra, the Government department, during the period 2014-15. The Committee are awaiting a Government response to the report, which in particular identifies a need for the department to publish its strategic approach to implementing spending cuts while protecting rural services. Select Committee website.

The Government has announced that it will be increasing its grant to local authorities delivering services in the most sparsely populated rural areas. The Rural Services Delivery Grant is due to increase from £15.5m to £65m in 2019-20. Campaigners welcomed the recognition that delivering services costs more in rural areas, but said that the amounts promised were not enough to bridge the funding gap. The Rural Fair Share campaign is calling on MPs to support its call for the Government to increase support to rural councils to £130m when the Local Government Finance Settlement is voted on in February. RSNOnline, 4 January.

Statistics

The latest Defra Quarterly Rural Economic Bulletin has been published. It includes the latest comparisons of rural and urban areas using the main high-level economic indicators. The latest edition also includes indicators of rural and urban productivity. Download the new report and previous editions from the Government website.