by David Bean

The Countryside Alliance commends both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on a hard and fairly fought contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party. We congratulate Liz Truss on her victory.

With both candidates representing rural constituencies we have engaged with them extensively, and are grateful for their contributions to our membership magazine which each committed to preserving the rural way of life.

Liz Truss will formally become Prime Minister tomorrow and will inherit a formidable set of challenges, not least those facing rural Britain. In seeking to protect and defend the countryside, we believe that these should be her top three priorities:

  1. Addressing the cost of living crisis. Driven by spiralling energy and fuel costs this is felt nowhere more keenly than in rural communities. Countryside Alliance research found that 45% reported greater anxiety and sleeplessness, more than three quarters have seen their disposable income fall by at least 10% and those relying on heating oil have suffered a 50% increase in the cost to fill their tanks. We call for an urgent VAT cut on fuel.
  2. Securing the British food supply. Russia’s monstrous assault on Ukraine has drawn food security into sharp focus and solutions are needed in the short and longer term. The Government should prioritise food production in its developing agricultural support schemes, recognising food as essential to environmental benefits and farmers as food producers as well as conservationists.
  3. Developing rural communities. Rural Britain needs levelling up too, including its infrastructure, so that rural businesses and families can thrive. Today’s announcement of a £110m fund to level up rural communities, published alongside its second report on rural proofing, is encouraging and we urge the Government to focus on digital connectivity in particular, helping close the rural productivity gap.

Today also sees the launch of the annual Countryside Alliance Awards, our contribution to the recognition and promotion of rural businesses, and we are grateful to the incoming Prime Minister for her support. As she said in July, these demonstrate “the strength, breadth and dynamism of rural businesses” and the potential in our rural communities that is waiting to be unleashed.

As Prime Minister, Liz Truss can rise to the challenges facing rural and wider Britain. We look forward to continuing to work with her and her new team, standing up, as ever, for the British countryside.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said:

“We congratulate Liz Truss on her victory and have every confidence that as a rural MP she fully appreciates the need for swift and decisive action to tackle the rural cost of living crisis. We have also been heartened by Liz’s understanding during the leadership campaign that rural communities are the solution to the challenges facing our environment, not the problem, and look forward to government policy reflecting that. We wish her every success and look forward to continuing to work with the government, for the good of the countryside and the country as a whole”.

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