On Thursday 6th February 2014 the Countryside Alliance’s Political team sent the following update to members of both Houses, updating them on recent successes and ongoing campaigning work.

Introduction

ParliamentI would like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to an extremely full calendar. 2014 is already shaping up to be a challenging and busy year for the Countryside Alliance, as we look forward to the local and European elections, the last Queen’s Speech of this Parliament, the Countryside Alliance Awards and many other exciting events and campaigns to promote and celebrate the countryside. It is now more important than ever that the Alliance maintains its hard work and dedication to ensure the voice of rural communities and the countryside is heard in policy making across the UK and in Europe.I was delighted to meet so many of you last year and to hear first-hand of your support and enthusiasm for the countryside and rural communities. The autumn party conferences were a perfect time for us to showcase our work on calling for better mobile phone signal in the countryside, and we continue to campaign strongly on this, as well as calling for improvements in rural broadband. I was also grateful and interested to hear your thoughts on some of the key issues in the countryside and what you think the Alliance could and should be working on. Your support and involvement in our campaigns is key to their success.

Although we are at the start of the year it has already been an extremely difficult and troubling 2014 for some areas of the country. A bitterly cold start in 2013 is now a dangerously wet 2014 and many communities across the UK have had to endure, and are enduring, tough times. I would like to say how much the Alliance feels for those towns and villages affected by the terrible weather conditions and our thoughts are with everyone who has faced, or continues to face, what is a worrying and difficult period.

Finally, despite all of the challenges facing the countryside, the Boxing Day meets provided a positive message for communities across the nation, and cold weather and flooding could not keep away the quarter of a million people who joined together to voice their support, enjoyment and celebration of hunting. 2014 will mark the tenth year since the Hunting Act was forced through against the wishes of a majority of parliamentarians. Since the Act came into force in February 2005 the 300 registered hunts in England and Wales have carried out more than 100,000 days of exempt hunting. The Act has done nothing for animal welfare and has made difficult proper, and much needed, wildlife management. Yet the Act limps on. This is despite overwhelming opposition to it in the countryside, and an increasing outcry that the livestock of farmers and land owners around the UK is under constant threat from predators who can no longer be properly controlled.

I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2014. In the meantime I have included some details of the Countryside Alliance’s key campaigns as well as some mentions of the Alliance in the media, which I think give a sense of the breadth of our campaigning activity.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch should you require further information on anything that I have mentioned.

Yours,

Sir Barney White-Spunner
Executive Chairman


Mobile phone signal

The Countryside Alliance campaign for better mobile signal has seen over 130 MPs support our call to map mobile phone signal across the UK by promoting the RootMetrics App to constituents. Our Sick of no Signal report has already shown that people outside the UK’s big cities are up to 4.5 times more likely to suffer failed calls on their mobile phones than those who live in the metropolises.As part of our campaign people across the UK have been taking signal samples with their smartphones using RootMetrics’ free CoverageMap App . Data compiled from the app and professional testing shows that people living outside major cities have a much poorer service from their mobile phone contracts. One extreme example is in the vicinity of Leicester, where there is 13.7 times more chance your call will go to dead air than in the city itself. Our research shows mobile performance, particularly internet access and call rate, gets worse the further you get from major cities. However more data is needed if we are to ensure that we all have a good and reliable mobile signal. If you would like to support our campaign or learn more about it please email [email protected]


Private Prosecutions

I would like to draw your attention to the RSPCA’s recent announcement of a review of its prosecutions policy. This is to be carried out by Stephen Wooler, former Chief Inspector of the CPS Inspectorate over the next couple of months. An overview of the process is available here. The Countryside Alliance will be meeting with Mr Wooler and reiterating its view that running the second biggest criminal prosecution operation in the country is incompatible with being a political campaigning organisation. The Alliance believes that the CPS, which has a statutory duty to prosecute, should take the lead in animal welfare cases as it does in all other criminal offences. We will monitor closely the proceedings and carefully review the findings of the investigation when they are announced.

Countryside Alliance Awards

The Countryside Alliance Awards are again just around the corner and between now and April my colleagues will be working flat out to ensure the Awards ceremony in Parliament in April will be the best yet. In recent weeks our judges have been on the road to sample some of the UK’s finest food and drink. They now face the unenviable task of having to judge the best in the categories to then announce the finalists in March. I would like to thank the many of you who so far have supported the Awards and celebrated successes in your constituencies. More details will come soon and we will contact you if you have a winner in your constituency, but in the meantime the Awards website will have all of the up to date information.

Hunting Newcomers

The Countryside Alliance held its annual Newcomers’ Week from 28th October – 3rd November 2013. This proved as popular as ever, if not more so, with a large number of hunts around the country taking up the initiative and running a range of activities during the scheduled week, from a guided tour of the kennels, a ‘come and ride with hounds’ day, to a Newcomers Meet. All hunts that took part reported an excellent turnout of newcomers and a strong uptake across the age ranges. We estimate that the week introduced hundreds of new faces to hunting with some even signing up for a full subscription after just one day. Newcomers Week will continue to play a large part in our hunting campaign work in 2014 and is again scheduled for October. For further information please email [email protected] or keep an eye on our website for further updates.