AS spending cuts start to bite across the country, the Countryside Alliance has written to the leaders of local authorities currently setting their budgets for the next year.

We have urged them to ensure that the unique needs of rural areas will not fall victim when the difficult financial decisions are taken.

Our message to local authorities is clear: engage with local people and respond to what they need. Any significant changes or cuts should be subject to genuine consultation.

The Countryside Alliance would like to see a more intelligent approach to service provision. This could include sharing resources with neighbouring authorities and making it possible to access local government services throughout the Post Office network.

Vibrant rural communities with a strong support network are too precious to lose, and the Countryside Alliance campaigns vigorously to promote and defend them.

Local authorities are alive to the challenges of isolation and vulnerability that can affect many living in remote rural areas and we would hope that is reflected in the debates taking place in town halls.

ALICE BARNARD, chief executive, Countryside Alliance