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Big Society risks ignoring rural enterprise, warns Plunkett

29 November 2010

'The Big Society vision is at risk of ignoring the potential that enterprise has for tackling the challenges facing rural communities'

 

Peter Couchman, CEO of the Plunkett Foundation

The Big Society is at risk of sidelining enterprising rural communities, the Plunkett Foundation has warned.

At Plunkett’s tenth annual conference last week, CEO Peter Couchman said the government should not ignore the success and strength of rural enterprise, such as village shops and pubs. If it does, Big Society could fail.

‘The withdrawal of public services and the closure of private business, including shops and pubs, are having a huge impact on rural communities,’ he said.

‘The Big Society vision is at risk of ignoring the potential that enterprise has for tackling the challenges facing rural communities. Communities are best-placed to address the problems that are affecting them, and they are doing just that, from owning and running shops and pubs to setting up next generation broadband access and renewable energy schemes, co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises provide a viable long-term solution to the challenges facing rural communities, but this is at risk of being ignored by the government.’

Couchman used the example of village shops to highlight the success of enterprising rural communities.

Of the 254 community-owned village shops that have opened over the past 25 years, only eight have closed, he said.

‘Due to the level of commitment this business model is able to unlock from their communities, community-owned village shops are able to draw on over one million hours of volunteer time per year,’ Couchman said.

The conference, which had a Better Business theme, also saw the launch of a new publication, which highlights how co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises are a better form of business for communities.

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