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Levelling up: “Why don’t we just… level up in rural areas?

  • by JW

“There is a need to build a real understanding and recognition of the particular problems facing rural areas… and of the means of addressing them.”

“In short is the White Paper fit for purpose in the rural context?”


Last month, the government published its ‘Levelling Up’ white paper – and rural bodies gave their response:

“Rural communities desperately needed an ambitious and robust plan to create jobs, share prosperity and strengthen communities, but Government has failed to deliver it.”
“If the government used an objective measure of living standards, more money should be being targeted at levelling up rural communities.

Levelling Up: what rural areas can expect – Vision Group for Sidmouth

A couple of days ago, the government responded with extra help for a key rural industry:

Rural pubs rescued with levelling up funds – GOV.UK

There has been more response from the rural constituencies – just out today:

A key question across all of the Policy Programmes is whether they will reach rural areas and designed (and funded) to reflect rural issues and circumstances? In short is the White Paper fit for purpose in the rural context?

Overarching Rural Lens review of Levelling Up White Paper published – Rural Services Network

Farmers’ Market: Kennaway House, Sidmouth

The Rural Coalition is an alliance of thirteen national organisations who bring a wide range of perspectives and experience of rural communities, businesses and the countryside and who together subscribe to a vision for a living and working countryside in England.
The Government’s ambitions for Levelling Up present a real opportunity to address the historic and current challenges for underperforming rural areas of the country. To do so fairly and equitably, the metrics and measures adopted need to be sufficiently sensitive and fine-tuned to recognise the particular circumstances and needs of rural areas.
The overriding philosophy presented for levelling up appears to be based on the assumption that growth and improvement derives primarily from cities and urban aggregation and that success in these will trickle down to surrounding areas. In our view there is no real evidence across England today to support this assumption. We believe this is a missed opportunity to recognise the role rural areas play in the national economy and the wellbeing of the country and how this could be enhanced. There is a need to build a real understanding and recognition of the particular problems facing rural areas; of the means of addressing them; and what a place-based approach means in a rural context

Action with Communities in Rural England – ACRE

Rural Coalition – ACRE

Meanwhile, the Country Land and Business Association is also not impressed:

Writing for The Yorkshire Post today, Mark Tufnell called on the Government to stop treating the countryside “like a museum” and introduce policies to unlock the economic potential of rural areas.
Mr Tufnell, who became president of the CLA in November, which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners in England and Wales, in November, said: “According to Defra’s figures, the rural economy – through no fault of its own – is 18 per cent less productive than the national average, and closing this gap would add £43bn to the economy…

Levelling Up White Paper failed to deliver for rural communities, claims CLA president | Yorkshire Post

With a final comment on the Big Issue from Dr Neil Hudson, Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border and a fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (

For decades, the economic view of successive governments has been London-centric, with public funds and infrastructure projects all flowing towards the nation’s capital and urban areas. Despite this, each has made attempts to “level up” the country – it’s just that this government has put a definitive name on the policy, even renaming one of its departments to that effect. As Michael Gove, the UK’s first Levelling Up Secretary, acknowledged: “While talent is spread equally across the United Kingdom, opportunity is not.”
But what do we mean by “levelling up”? Achieving levelling up can be interpreted as sustainably rectifying the historical imbalance in our country’s growth, educational and living standards to improve the lives of everyone. This imbalance, which exists not just geographically but also between our cities, towns, and rural areas, is in no one’s interest.

Why don’t we just… level up in rural areas? – Big Issue North