by Countryside Alliance

The House of Lords Rural Economy Committee has today (27 April) published its final report which calls on the Government to “rethink and reform” how it engages with rural communities.

The report found there was “significant room for improvement” in rural proofing to ensure Government policies are suitable for people who live and work in the countryside. It recommends the Government develop a “comprehensive rural strategy”, setting out objectives for rural areas, to be assessed by an annual report to Parliament, something which the Countryside Alliance called for ahead of the report.

The report follows a yearlong inquiry, in which the Countryside Alliance played a key role by providing evidence based on the results of an online survey in which over 1,000 people took part. The Alliance stressed that delivering a strong economy, increased productivity and thriving communities, cannot be achieved without recognising the vital role the countryside has to play.

The report reflects many of the concerns highlighted by the Countryside Alliance. It calls for the Government to review the rural impact of business rates and relief schemes, and calls on Ofcom to review the broadband Universal Service Obligation to assess whether targets for download and upload speeds are able to sustain rural life and business.

The Countryside Alliance will work hard to help turn these recommendations into action. The Government is expected to respond to the report shortly.

Countryside Alliance Head of Policy, Sarah Lee, commented: “Once again we have a report from the House of Lords that calls for a radical rethink on how the Government views and supports rural communities. It is now time for the Government to move away from one size policy fits all and sit up and listen to the voice of rural Britain. The Government needs to ensure that there is a deep understanding of the unique challenges the countryside faces and that starts with delivering on its commitment to deliver rural proofing.”

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