On 8 October 2019 Lord Foster of Bath (Liberal Democrat) is due to move that “this House takes note of the Report from the Select Committee on the Rural Economy Time for a strategy for the rural economy”. The report was published in April 2019, and the Government responded in July 2019. This briefing provides a short summary of the key elements of the report and responses, and a selection of further information on the topic of the rural economy.
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In their report, the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee argued that “successive governments have underrated the contribution rural economies can make to the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing”. In addition, the committee stated that governments have “applied policies which were largely devised for urban and suburban economies, and which are often inappropriate for rural England”. The committee said that to enable the rural economy to fulfil its potential the Government should:
- develop a rural strategy;
- ensure improved “rural-proofing” is applied to all policies; and
- institute a “place-based approach” which takes into account the diversity of the countryside.
The committee also investigated how the Government could address some of the challenges facing rural areas, including:
- poor digital connectivity;
- housing, planning and rural working spaces;
- access to skills and rural business support; and
- delivering essential services at a local level.
In its response to the report, the Government agreed with the committee’s assertion that rural-proofing is important. However, the Government disagreed that developing a rural strategy would be beneficial, arguing that to do so would “risk rural areas being placed in a silo”. In response to the committee’s argument that all policies should be instituted using a “place-based approach”, the Government emphasised the importance of the existing Local Industrial Strategy framework.
Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, also responded to the report. The regulator said that it shared the committee’s concern that people in rural areas often could not access reliable mobile and broadband services, and set out its work to improve rural connectivity.