Levelling up rural: unlocking the potential

“Councils know their areas intimately…but need powers and resource.”

“Now, this potential needs to be unlocked through a programme of investment.”

“The UK Government’s ‘A Plan for Jobs’ fails to recognise that rural economies present great opportunities for the UK and this situation needs to be redressed if we are to bounce back better.”

“Rural enterprise has been underexplored and underutilised.”

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Back in the spring, there was talk of ‘levelling up’ rural areas:

Levelling up rural – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Covid hasn’t helped:

Managing covid-19 in rural areas – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Especially as rural areas have been suffering greater than average job losses due to a reliance on hospitality and tourism:

Rural communities and the coronavirus – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Although new trends might offset these immediate problems, whether: working remotely … greater appreciation for British food … shorter supply chains … more home-grown food … revitalisation of rural holiday destinations … innovations in service provision and digital technology …

The longer-term impacts on rural life – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And as has been pointed out, the advantage for rural areas is that there’s lots of space:

Re-starting the economy in rural areas – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The government has made various promises:

Build back better: a rural recovery – Vision Group for Sidmouth

A green industrial revolution? The impact on rural life. – Vision Group for Sidmouth

But rural areas desperately need more affordable housing:

Highlighting the rural housing crisis – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Getting rural housing right – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And much better broadband:

Calls for better internet coverage across rural areas – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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There have been several calls for concrete steps to be taken.

This is from a Cornwall Council press release back in March:

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Rural areas are key to ‘levelling up’ – but need powers and resource to match their ambitions

The County Councils Network’s (CCN) new study, released ahead of the budget, lays bare the economic challenges facing communities in rural areas like Cornwall.

Cornwall Council leader, Julian German, said: “The inequality that exists between regions underlines the danger of adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to policies across UK regions. To truly ‘level up’ the country, it requires a combination of an intimate knowledge of place, and the freedom and powers to make decisions within our area that benefit people in Cornwall.”

Barry Lewis, a spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said: “Since the general election, there has been a clear focus on ‘red wall’ seats that the government has won. But if it wants to genuinely back up its rhetoric and level up England, then a narrow focus on these areas will not work. Communities in the likes of Devon and Cornwall in the South West, to Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands, need as much focus on why they have been left behind.”

He added: “These councils know their areas intimately…but need powers and resource. The devolution white paper provides a perfect opportunity for a step-change.”

Rural areas are key to ‘levelling up’ – but need powers and resource to match their ambitions – Cornwall Council

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This is from the Rural Coalition in September:

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Call for Government to level-up rural areas to support England’s economic recovery from COVID-19

A coalition of thirteen leading rural organisations is today urging the Government to commit to more equitable funding in rural areas to support England’s economic recovery from COVID-19. The Rural Coalition has published Rebuilding Rural: Growing Back Better, setting out its priorities for a successful recovery by seizing the potential social and economic opportunities across rural England.

Rural areas are home to 9.3 million people – more than Greater London – but they have long faced the challenges of sparsity, remoteness, poor connectivity and a history of unequal funding and patchy service delivery. Some communities which are heavily dependent on tourism and seasonal work are now at risk of being left further behind. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed weaknesses in the narrow economic base of some of these areas, but also highlighted the opportunities rural economies can make to the recovery. Now, this potential needs to be unlocked through a programme of investment.

Call for Government to level-up rural areas to support England’s economic recovery from COVID-19 – ACRE | Action with Communities in Rural England

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This is from the Institute of Economic Development from last month:

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Rural relevance to economic levelling up

Current economic strategies tend to lean towards an urban narrative with the important rural agenda overlooked – despite the importance of resources, activities and people in these areas to the future economic strength of the nation.

A recent report from the Rural Services Network (RSN) states that predominantly rural areas in England contributed £260 billion of Gross Value Added to the national economy during 2018. This accounts for almost a 16% share of England’s economic output. That rural share has reduced somewhat over time, from 16.4% in 2010 to 15.9% in 2018, as London has expanded further its share of the country’s activity.

If the UK is to better utilise its overall resource base, its existing built assets and infrastructure and the whole of its population, then productive effort needs to be distributed more evenly. The Industrial Strategy (and subsequent local versions) and the UK Government’s A Plan for Jobs fail to recognise that rural economies present great opportunities for the UK and this situation needs to be redressed if we are to bounce back better.

Rural relevance to economic levelling up

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And, finally, this is from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise and the Swindon & Wiltshire LEP from this week:

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Unlocking the contribution of rural enterprise to ‘levelling up’

Over many decades, rural economies and their diverse sources of enterprise have been overlooked within mainstream policies – whether it be debates about national productivity, industrial strategy, society’s response to long term grand challenges or the ‘levelling up’ agenda. Either treated too narrowly, so associated only with sectors like agriculture, tourism and traditional industries or eclipsed by approaches seen through the lens of cities as the presumed locus for growth, innovation and regional development, rural enterprise has been underexplored and underutilised.

Unlocking the contribution of rural enterprise to ‘levelling up’

   
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