A quick look at Our Charity shows a long proud history of support and leadership in Warwickshire rural communities. You’ll also notice that our organisation looks very different from the one that was formed in 1937 – as the needs of rural communities have changed, then so have we! As access to public transport in rural areas has fallen, we’ve become more involved in community transport provision. As house prices have risen, we’ve become more involved in affordable housing. A number of our original concerns have remained however: village halls are perhaps even more important to rural communities and are still a key focus for us.
We’ve also had to adapt to a changing funding environment. We have been extremely fortunate to have received grant support from DEFRA in recent years, but the availability of grant funding from local authorities has fallen dramatically. WRCC has therefore chosen to embrace other funding models and we now engage in charitable trading to generate a significant proportion of our own funds. Some examples of our successes are:
- our community transport project no longer receives ongoing grant funding, but we have managed to double the number of community passengers carried
- our energy syndicate ordered over 4.75 million litres of heating oil and saved members over £237,000 against average prices without receiving any local grant support
A cursory look at Warwickshire rural areas might suggest affluence and comfort, but deprivation in rural areas is often well hidden and a number of structural social issues exists if you dig a little deeper. Affordable housing is simply not available in many villages, the ageing population is more of a factor in rural areas and access to services is a significant problem for many. These trends seem to be worsening.
We need to be creative about how we continue to support rural communities – the issues are often dispersed and always complex and do not fit naturally with current funding arrangements. WRCC is keen to engage with partners in the community, charity, public and private sectors to address this. If you share our aspirations, then please contact me to discuss how we might collaborate.
Kim Slater, WRCC Chief Executive
WRCC seeks to ensure Warwickshire communities are thriving, vibrant and sustainable – places where people want to live and work. Our mission is to:
- Improve the lives of people living and working in rural communities
- Support and encourage community–led action and strong local governance
- Increase long-term sustainability of local community life
- Influence policies and services so as to help address market failures associated with rurality
We are part of the ACRE network – a network of 38 rural community organisations in England with shared aims.