More government money… but how much understanding is there of what is actually happening in the countryside?
The government has committed to ‘rural proofing’:
This second report on rural proofing examines government action to support the rural economy and rural communities. This includes the government’s landmark Levelling Up White Paper and the challenges of the current economic climate. The report presents an evidence-based picture which helps us to understand the rural context for government policy to:
- strengthen the rural economy
- develop rural infrastructure
- deliver rural services
- manage the natural environment
- integrate rural interests across the government’s approach to levelling up
It also summarises progress against the 5 key priorities set out in the first rural proofing report.
Back in April, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rural Powerhouse published a report that found the rural economy was 18% less productive than the national average – and now a fund has been set up:
Farms, pubs, and village halls across England will be able to bid for a share of up to £110m funding as part of a new scheme to boost the rural economy.
The rural England prosperity fund has been created as a “top-up” for councils to deliver as part of the government’s levelling-up programme. The money will be available from April 2023 for schemes that create jobs and increase countryside productivity.
National Farmers Union President Minette Batters told BBC News the money was a “substantial investment” into rural areas that would help farms become “diverse, multi-faceted” businesses. She added: “We had been worried previously with the levelling-up work that it was very urban-centric and I think this is a clear sign that they really are taking rural communities seriously. The ability to turbocharge the rural economy has never been more important and I am delighted they are thinking in that way.”
As announced by DEFRA:
Further government funding was announced today for the West Country:
Farmers and landowners in the region will be able to access help to adapt to changes in agricultural grants, thanks to a £2.6 million support programme. Following the success of earlier phases of our Future Farming Resilience programme, there is new DEFRA funding to expand the initiative. The project aims to boost the rural economy by helping farmers to improve their business and the environment, and having previously covered Devon and Somerset, it will now also take in Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
With a new government in place, the NFU is hoping for further positive action from government:
“Britain’s farmers are critically important in providing the nation with home-grown food and we look forward to working with you to ensure farming has a vibrant and sustainable future.”
Although, the Country Land and Business Association is not impressed:
Neither of the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party has made a convincing pitch to rural voters, despite that demographic being one of the biggest sources of Tory power, the head of the UK’s biggest rural business organisation said.
Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents about 30,000 landowners and rural businesses, said Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak had done too little to show how they would boost the countryside economy and deal with pressing concerns such as planning, rural broadband, and farm support. “I don’t think either candidate really understands what is happening in the countryside, and what the real issues are,” Tufnell said. “Both of them have said nice things about farms. But there is no understanding of what is actually happening in the countryside. They have not said much about it.”