play_circle_filled In progress

Economy Economy

Bring sustainable growth to the rural economy

Last updated: 09:29am 19 May 2020

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 infrastructures 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”.

The second funding round for the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme has opened for applications on 9 July 2019 to help farm businesses invest in new and innovative technology. As evidence shows that smart use of technology boosts productivity and yields, but also improves animal welfare and the environment. Also, it is said that plans are developing for a third £15 million funding round in 2020.

On 31 July 2019, The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has confirmed that eligible Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) customers have been paid for their overdue historic claims. Farmers and land managers are provided with an additional income stream for delivering environmental benefits, including providing habitats for wildlife and reducing the risk of flooding by improving farm infrastructure.

On 5 August 2019, a fourth national round of the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund has opened for applications. Groups of farmers and landowners will be able to bid for a share of the £2.5 million funds until 4 October. It is expected to support approximately 40 new facilitation groups to deliver large-scale environment improvement in their area over the next three years. Improvements could include natural flood prevention, enhancing wildlife habitats or planting more trees.

Guidance of flooding advice for farmers and land managers aiming to give information for farmers and land managers whose land has been flooded has been published on 16 August 2019, check the guidance through the link below for more information.

On 20 September 2019, applications to the £2 million Farming Recovery Fund has opened to help farmers affected by summer flooding, in parts of North Yorkshire and Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, to cover a number of repair costs. This comes after the Government confirmed up to £5.25 million to support wider recovery work in the area, including the repair of roads and bridges and activating the Bellwin scheme, which can be utilised when an emergency involving the destruction of or danger to life or property occurs, to reimburse local authorities for emergency work in flood-affected areas.

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”.

But there are signs that work is still required…

The select committee identified often unaddressed problems, specifically: “digital connectivity, the un-affordability 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.  At the time the general election was called (and Parliament was therefore dissolved) this policy remained ‘in progress’.

Sustain your mental growth – get the details!

There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.