Ministers urged to level up villages and rural areas

The government has been urged to give people in villages the same opportunity as those living in bigger towns and cities.

Speaking at a Rural Services Network (RSN) event earlier this week, MPs, peers and other delegates warned that Britain’s post-Covid recovery risked being weakened by poor connectivity and other challenges across key regions of the country.

Professor Jeremy Phillipson, director of the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise told the event the greater acceptance of remote working brought about by the pandemic has ‘shaken the faith that cities are the solitary engines of economic growth’.

Yet he and others warned that rural areas may be hamstrung from taking advantage of the reduced need for people to live in cities for work, because of poor investment in core services including transport, infrastructure and housing.

As Professor Phillipson noted, poor rural connectivity has already ‘inhibited the ability of rural firms to reorient to online during the pandemic’.

The event came ahead of yesterday’s Budget, in which the chancellor did not specifically address rural issues, but announced measures to extend Covid support measures for business and individuals beyond the dates in the road map to recovery, along with the prospectus for the £4.8bm Levelling Up Fund, which will consider ‘need for economic recovery, regeneration and improved connectivity’.

The MP Philip Dunne, chair of the environmental audit committee and the APPG for Rural Services, who chaired the event, said: ‘What has shone out for me is the need to keep banging the rural drum to make clear to all government departments and most notably the Treasury the need to ensure rural voices are taken into account when determining policy.

‘Every aspect of life has a rural element, yet most policies are determined by civil servants thinking from the big picture, from the large impact on large populations which by definition are urban orientated. We can all think of examples about how challenging it is to make existing policy fit with the specific aspects of rural life. The Revitalising Rural Campaign is a live tool which adapts and changes and is regularly updated by the Rural Services Network and provides lots of ideas which many of us are already using and advocating at a national level.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay


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