Naomi Larsson 01 March 2019

Government urged to publish a rural strategy

Government has been urged to address its ‘inadequate’ rural policy ahead of Brexit.

A network of rural service providers and organisations have released a report calling for the government to properly confront challenges in rural England, citing concerns that EU funding for community development and business initiatives will end next year.

The Rural Services Network believes current government policy overlooks the needs of rural communities, and is ‘dominated by urban thinking’.

‘Communities either miss out on the benefits or experience unintended consequences policies which are poorly thought-through from a rural perspective.

It is time for this ‘rural mainstreaming’ to stop,’ said Rural Services Network chief executive, Graham Biggs.

‘People living in ours towns and villages simply cannot afford to wait any longer for politicians to take their concerns seriously and act on them.’ Close to 10m people live in rural England, but they receive less grant per head than urban areas. In 2018/19, urban authorities will receive double the amount of Settlement Funding Assessment grant per head than their rural counterparts.

Aside from diminished EU funding, the network listed problems for rural areas including broadband connectivity, where 15% of residents are unable to connect, brain drain as more people move to cities, and cuts to bus services.

Mr Biggs added: ‘If rural communities are to be sustainable, the Government must seize this opportunity to work with communities to produce a long-term, funded rural strategy which recognises the contribution rural areas make and have the potential to make to the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation as a whole.’

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