by Sarah Lee

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has presented his Budget to Parliament.

As we fully assess what we believe the impact will be for the countryside in practice, it’s fair to say that this is overall a welcome budget for rural communities.

When we wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury prior to today’s announcements we called for better digital connectivity, a full-scale review of business rates and further measures to tackle fly-tipping.

It’s great to know that the Treasury has listened to our asks.

Specifically, we welcome the announcement concerning the shared rural network, the £5 billion for gigabit broadband connectivity and the review of business rates which has the potential to significantly help our rural economy.

Additionally, we are pleased to see that the red diesel subsidy remains for agriculture and that pubs will remain at the heart of the rural communities, with a significant increase in the business rates relief.

While we are, on the face of it, pleased that money is being put into peatland restoration, we will need to see further details about how that money will be allocated. This money will complement the peatland restoration already undertaken by grouse moor owners, which benefits biodiversity.

Rural communities have been devastated by the recent flooding and many members have expressed their concern over the lack of flood defence. We therefore welcome the announcement today that £120 million will be made available immediately to repair all defences damaged in the winter floods. On top of this, an additional £200 million directly to local communities to build flood resilience will double investment in flood defences over the next six years to £5.2 billion.

The measures outlined in today’s budget now need to be introduced sooner rather than later, so that rural communities can start to feel the benefit. As ever, the Countryside Alliance will be monitoring the implementation process closely.

For a full round-up of today's Budget 2020 click here.

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