from: John Maxwell Jones, owner/partner, Burgess Stores

SIR; As the representative of Kent on the national steering group of the VIRSA Rural Shops Alliance, I should draw readers’ attention to the existence of a dedicated representative body for rural retailers.

The Rural Shops Alliance now has a membership of 7,500 out of a possible 12,000 village shops in England and Wales. Since it started recruiting in April 2001, the RSA has been the fastest-growing representative body in the retail sector.

It can truly claim to speak for village shops since it is recognised by both government departments and agencies including the DTI, DEFRA, Better Regulation Taskforce, Food Standards Agency and the Small Business Service. To further the links with these bodies, the RSA has developed a number of consultative panels drawn from its members. Probably the biggest and most important is the legislative panel which is looking at and responding to changes in legislation, and how such changes will impact on RSA members.

While the general operation of the RSA is carried out by the national manager Sean Carter, VIRSA director Peter Jones and the VIRSA secretariat, decisions on policies and objectives and related matters are in the hands of the national steering group.

It may be true independents do not have the financial and practical resources to emulate the supermarket groups, but we do have a voice in the RSA.