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Petition to save rural community councils
More than 5000 people have signed a petition against proposals to withdraw government funding from England's 38 rural community councils.
The e-petition was set up this month by Action for Communities in Rural England (ACRE) after it emerged that Defra funding could be withdrawn.
ACRE is the national body for the 38 rural community councils which lead, support and enable rural community initiatives, reaching 50,000 grassroots organisations.
ACRE warned that 90 years of dedicated support for 11,000 rural communities could be jeopardised if the cuts go ahead. Some 900 staff across the network offer a range of specialist skills – from helping to run community transport schemes and oil-buying clubs to assessing housing needs.
"This nationwide network of rural community councils carries out crucial work to help our communities thrive," said ACRE.
"It funds, leads or enables thousands of projects to help people tackle the challenges they face."
E-petitions aim to enable people to influence government and parliament in the UK. If an e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it is eligible for a debate in the House of Commons. But even e-petitions that don't reach the required target have been known to influence government policy.
ACRE said it was the only network that provided advice to the 80,000 volunteers who help to keep England's 10,000 village halls alive.
Cllr Ken Browse, chair of National Association of Local Councils said. "Without the network's support, communities will be less resilient, services will be lost and more people will become lonely and isolated,"
"We call on Defra not to withdraw funding from the ACRE Network.
"To pull it now would fracture the network, undermine years of investment and leave the most vulnerable in rural areas with nowhere to go."
The petition runs until 30 March 2015.