Today (22 March 2018) the House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act reports that the Government is failing rural communities and the responsibility for rural policy should be transferred from Defra.
Giving evidence to the House of Lords Committee the Countryside Alliance highlighted a number of issues the report picks up on including the proposal for rural proofing to be led by the Cabinet Office, the loss of granular research on rural issues and the need for rural affairs to be a fully integrated into a government department. The Report’s recommendation that responsibility for rural policy should be transferred from Defra to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government could be the first step for the countryside to be taken seriously but unless there is a sea change in government and the civil service coupled with a greater understanding of the countryside nothing will change.
In their evidence the Countryside Alliance also made the case for rural proofing and asserted that we need to ensure it is effective and fair. Rural proofing must be integrated into the psyche of Whitehall and beyond if it is going to work which is why we called for it to be led from the Cabinet Office and are pleased the Committee adopted our suggestion.
Tim Bonner, Chief Executive, said: ‘Those who live and work there can be forgiven for feeling that the countryside is often treated as a theme park, not receiving the political support and action it needs and deserves. Rural life holds specific challenges, which means it needs different solutions and policies to our urban neighbours.
‘The lack of affordable housing or the roll-out of broadband to the countryside continue to be contentious issues facing the Government. Until there is a fundamental change in the workings of government and the civil service rural communities will not get a fair deal.’