Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has written for the Countryside Alliance’s membership magazine ahead of the General Election on 7th May. Mr Miliband’s article appears alongside articles by the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties respectively. All three write about the countryside and its place in national life. Mr Miliband writes: As someone who represents a constituency with big rural areas, I care deeply about how we improve life for people who live in the countryside. Readers of the Countryside Alliance Magazine know that rural communities are staggeringly diverse but have common needs and aspirations. Under this Government rural communities have faced a cost-of living crisis, a damaging fall in the wholesale dairy price, a low-pay, low-skill economy, and lack the power to make decisions about their future.
A Labour Government will champion rural Britain and empower rural communities. The Tory-led Government’s policies have often hit rural communities harder than others, with wages falling and the cost of living rising more rapidly than in other parts of the country. Rural businesses and households have seen the same soaring energy bills as the rest of the country, but have an added burden as many have no mains access to utilities, forcing them to use more expensive alternatives like bottled gas. And while many rural households pay more for transport, access is worse than in urban areas.
Instead of standing up for hard pressed rural communities, David Cameron has stood up for vested interests. I understand how frustrating it is for rural businesses and families unable to access broadband, with many cut off from access to superfast fibre connections. That’s why a Labour Government will redouble efforts to deliver universal broadband and connect the ‘final five per cent’ that this Government has left behind.
A Labour Government will deal with the Tory cost of living crisis, taking action to create more good jobs and make work pay. Our economic plan will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, introduce tax incentives for firms to pay the living wage and boost apprenticeships. For families facing rip-off energy bills, Labour will, for the first time, include off-grid energy within the remit of our new energy regulator. Our energy price freeze will save households
money on their bills, and we will pay Winter Fuel Allowance payments earlier for pensioners using off-grid energy, protecting them from excessive price spikes.
Labour will cut the cost of doing business in rural areas by freezing business rates for small and medium enterprises while boosting lending through a new network of regional banks.
Our plans will also give rural communities more power to plan their own services, through devolving powers to country regions. Local areas will be able to regulate bus services,
allowing them to deliver better outcomes for passengers, regulate fares and improve services.
Labour will also offer a new deal to rural communities on housing: we will tackle this Government’s rural housing crisis by building more affordable homes in rural communities and
strengthening the power of those communities to make sure developers provide affordable housing as part of developments.
Rural communities have borne the brunt of this Government’s failures. Labour’s mission in government will be to make Britain work for everyone, not just a privileged few. A One Nation Labour government will champion rural Britain – people and businesses, communities and organisations – in all of its diversity.