Rural campaigners are calling for better support from local and central government for the 80,000 volunteers who run community and village halls, warning rural areas could otherwise lose vital hubs.
The Rural Community Action Network and the umbrella body Action with Communities in Rural England say people who help run 10,000 halls across England are struggling with red tape, a loss of funding and the increasing needs of people who use them.
Both organisations support volunteers who own and manage rural community buildings.
RCAN has launched a national campaign to highlight the valuable role halls play in communities and calls for further financial assistance for organisations that support them.
RCAN estimates the total asset value of village halls across the country at £2.1bn. In the past, RCAN has been able to provide advice and training from qualified advisers to help communities to manage and improve their village halls. But this service is being stretched by cuts and increasing demands on its services, the network said.
Deborah Clarke, rural community buildings officer at RCAN, said: "Community and village halls underpin rural life. Each one is a vital venue for a range of services and local activities – often things that local authorities can’t provide.
"As these are done on a voluntary basis, demand for the skills, experience and knowledge that RCAN can share is increasing. However, easily accessible community development-type support services are reducing."
The organisation is calling for the government, local authorities and other policy makers to work together to decide how best to help maintain the support service RCAN provides. It is also distributing a new publication, Community Assets: Keep Their Future Vibrant, as part of the campaign.