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Economy Economy

Bring sustainable growth to the rural economy

Last updated: 09:20am 24 July 2019

We will bring sustainable growth to the rural economy and boost our rural areas, so that people who live in the countryside have the same opportunities as those who live in our towns and cities

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.25

Our verdict

The definition of the rural economy, according to the House of Lords, encompasses many different areas including agriculture, forestry and rural affairs. It also includes the less commonly cited service sector, public administration, education and health.  This policy is particularly complicated to track due to the variety of sectors involved.

In July 2017, the government announced a £200 million boost to rural communities. They stated the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) would generate over 6700 new jobs, as well as developing infrastructure such as new buildings and machinery. This new funding includes £30 million to improve rural broadband, and £120 million to assist with productivity for farming, forestry, and landowners.

In July 2018, £45 million was made available through the Rural Broadband Infrastructure scheme. Following this, in October 2018 a project to help landowners create new woodland was launched as an initiative to bring “economic and environmental benefits”.

These grants and programs constitute efforts to improve the rural economy, but given the scale of the challenge, it’s questionable whether enough is being done. Indeed, a report published in April 2019 by the Select Committee on the Rural Economy found that successive governments have applied policies “which are often inappropriate for rural England”.

The select committee identified often unaddressed problems:

“digital connectivity, the unaffordability of housing, economic development and business support, training and skills, the loss of basic services such as banks, buses and shops, and issues of health and social isolation”.

The report proposes specific responses to these problem areas as well as calling for a “comprehensive and place-based rural strategy”.

Some funding is being allocated to “bring sustainable growth to the rural economy”,  but sustainability is obviously a long-term proposition so we’ll need to keep tracking.  In the meantime, this is ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates when we get them.

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There's always room for debate

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