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Rural economy needs to be at heart of Government’s policies

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Rural economy needs to be at heart of Government’s policies

Prime Minister Liz Truss’s new Government should place the rural economy at the heart of its policies to provide a multi-billion pound boost to the nation’s beleaguered finances, senior figures at North Yorkshire County Council have claimed.

Liz Truss has placed economic growth at the heart of her new administration’s policy-making, pledging to rebuild the economy through tax cuts and reform.

However, concerns have been expressed that her predecessor Boris Johnson’s flagship policy of levelling up the nation’s economy and eradicating regional inequalities may no longer be at the centre of her own ideologies.

Leader, Cllr Carl Les, stressed that the rural economy needs to be placed at the centre of the Government’s policies to ensure that it can realise its full potential.

Research published earlier this year revealed that the countryside economy is lagging nearly a fifth behind the national average, and a £43 billion boost to the economy would be realised and thousands of jobs created if the gap was closed.

Cllr Les said: “We need to ensure that the rural economy is taken as seriously as the economic input from large metropolitan areas, as it has just as much importance to the nation.

“The financial pressures which the country is facing are huge, and the effects of inflation and the cost of living crisis are being felt by millions of people.

“The levelling up agenda is aimed at tackling regional inequalities, but this is not simply about a North-South divide. There needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that there is parity and equality between urban and rural areas as well.

“For North Yorkshire, the rural economy is instrumental in ensuring prosperity and greater job opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in the county.

“From innovation in the farming industry to the multi-billion pound visitor industry we have here in Yorkshire, we want to see the countryside placed equally at the forefront of the new Government’s policies.”

The study that was published in April by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse (APPG) found a succession of issues were blighting the countryside and holding back its economic potential.

The report highlighted a fractured planning system which has failed those living and working in rural areas, and a lack of skills provision has been responsible for a “brain drain” of talented workers from the countryside.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse also warned that urgent action was needed to address labour shortages, and claimed the Government was not fulfilling its commitments to provide rural communities with full-fibre internet connections and access to 4G connectivity.

The group also highlighted issues with the current tax system, which is not attracting enough business investment and diversification in rural areas.

The need for a radical vision to transform the countryside economy was also outlined by the landmark North Yorkshire Rural Commission, stating that the Government should hand over decision-making powers and millions of pounds in funding to local leaders to realise the full potential of the county’s rural communities.

The independent Rural Commission, which we established in the autumn of 2019, said devolution was key to the future of the countryside.

A proposed devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire was unveiled in August, and is set to see £540 million of investment over a 30-year period.

A rural taskforce was established in the wake of the publication of the North Yorkshire Rural Commission’s final report in July last year to ensure that its recommendations were acted upon.

The commission itself met 20 times, taking evidence from more than 70 participants, including MPs and government officials. Three visits were made to rural communities, while 27 written submissions were considered.

The North Yorkshire Rural Taskforce’s chairman, Richard Flinton, who is also the chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, stressed the importance for Ministers to ensure the rural economy is placed on a level footing with urban areas.

Richard Flinton said: “The Rural Taskforce is committed to acting upon the recommendations that were published in the commission’s final report, and we have been working hard to help tackle some deeply-ingrained problems in countryside communities.

“However, this simply cannot be done by one organisation, and there needs to be a collective effort to try and resolve these issues in rural areas, whether that be tackling the affordable housing crisis, improving digital connectivity or ensuring that there is a vibrant and diverse workforce available.

“It means that every opportunity is taken so that the Government is working closely with local areas to ensure that these rural issues are addressed effectively.

“The rural economy is hugely important to the nation, and we need to make sure that it is at the forefront of people’s minds not just here in North Yorkshire, but nationally as well.”

 

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