Writing exclusively for the Countryside Alliance's magazine, My Countryside, Liz Truss outlines her vision for rural Britain.
As I criss-cross the UK, making my way from hustings to hustings, I am constantly reminded of the beauty of our countryside and the communities it supports - the towns, villages and hamlets I championed for two years as Environment Secretary and that I am proud to represent in South West Norfolk.
If I am elected Leader of the Conservative Party, I am determined to lead a country where everyone can succeed and fulfil their potential. I want people to fulfil their dreams no matter where they are from. This includes our most rural and isolated communities, which despite the splendour of their settings often face the very specific challenges of poor connectivity, remote public services, higher transport costs and a greater reliance on oil and LPG for heating.
I want us to be an aspiration nation, which I would achieve by unleashing economic growth and cutting taxes. For me, economic growth isn’t just numbers on a page. It's about people’s lives, giving them opportunities and well-paid jobs, ensuring they can support their families and afford to live where they were born and raised. As we seek to ensure the future vibrancy of our towns and villages, we will scrap Whitehall-imposed top-down housing targets and place planning powers back in the hands of local people who know their communities best, allowing them to grow organically and meet local needs.
My defining mission would be to get economic growth back on track by cutting corporation tax, reversing the National Insurance rate rise, simplifying taxes and reliefs, reforming business rates and introducing a moratorium on energy levies. I know that people across the whole of Britain are struggling with rising prices and I am absolutely determined to help them from day one.
Unleashing the potential of our rural communities will be at the heart of this mission. I know only too well from the Countryside Alliance Awards the strength, breadth and dynamism of rural businesses, including regional winners like the Fox Inn in Garboldisham in my constituency. I want more of our businesses to be Rural Oscar winners as it’s these types of businesses - the village shop that keeps its local Post Office services going or the pub that promotes local produce and puts on events for elderly residents - that underpin the rural economy and way of life.
I also want to boost our domestic food production, particularly in growth areas like horticulture and seafood - increasing UK food security and enabling us to buy, grow and sell more British food. To do this, I will streamline the inspection regime for UK food producers by removing red tape, reducing costs and having a greater role for earned recognition.
Whether it’s the Lakeland Fells or the Norfolk Brecks our world-famous countryside wouldn’t look the way it does, or support the precious plants, habitats and wildlife, without the efforts of our farmers and land managers. That’s why it’s vital that alongside boosting food production, we harness their skills for landscape-scale conservation - using their expertise and common sense. As the Environmental Land Management schemes are rolled out, we must work closely with industry to ensure that farmers are able to access these schemes, and be rewarded for their efforts, while delivering robust environmental outcomes.
Britain’s rural areas are a key driver of our economy, a distinct part of our national character and the foundation of our environment. That’s why I will continue to champion rural communities and the rural way of life, ensuring their, and the rest of the country’s, best days lie ahead.
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