An innovative rural network set up to help combat crime in the countryside has been praised by a government minister.

Launched earlier this year, the National Rural Crime Network brings together Police and Crime Commissioners with other rural stakeholders.

So far, the initiative has been endorsed by 26 PCCs, as well as other supporters.

Despite being only a few months old, the network was praised by policing minister Damian Green during a debate in the House of Commons.

Mr Green said: "It is good to see PCCs in rural areas coming together in that way."

He told MPs: "One of the best things the network does is to ensure that best practice is shared, so that things can be co-ordinated and sustained effectively.

"The network wants to provide an online resource for the police, community safety practitioners and others precisely to share information, training and development, access to case studies and so on.

He added: "Altogether, the network is one of the more exciting developments, which will enable things to happen at a national level, although it is absolutely locally based and based on real world experiences.

"All those involved will be able to learn from one another and to work collaboratively on new ideas and solutions that will benefit local people."

The idea for a rural crime network originated with the Rural Services Network, which represents a diverse range of rural service providers in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Supporters include the national community safety network, an online crime reporting system called Facewatch, rural landowners and other stakeholders.

Nick Payne, of the Rural Services Network, said: "While rural crime might not be as numerous [as urban crime], its impact can be just as great."

Mr Payne added: "Rural areas can also face a higher fear of crime because populations are more elderly and isolated.

"Police budgets are under strain and not likely to get any better any time soon, so we want to assist the police where we can and ensure rural communities can become more resilient in preventing and deterring crime in their localities."