New ‘contract’ to give rural communities power

Published on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 07:51
Posted by Scott Buckler

Rural England has new power to hold the Government to account on its promise to grow the rural economy and support thriving rural communities, as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson unveils the first 'rural contract' today

The Rural Statement gives people in rural areas an expectation of the changes they should see both at work and in their communities, as the Government delivers its vision for rural England.

It formalizes the Government's drive for rural businesses to overcome barriers to growth and make a sustainable contribution to economic recovery, setting out the initiatives that are already making progress towards this ambition, and those that will open up rural business opportunities in the near future.  The Rural Statement names superfast broadband delivery, rural business grants and Rural Growth Networks among initiatives to create rural jobs, new business opportunities and rural economic growth.

The Rural Statement reaffirms the Government's commitment to tackling red tape and freeing rural businesses and farms from the unnecessary Government control that has got in the way of rural economic growth in the past.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said,

"Rural economic growth is vital for this country. The Government's role is ensure that rural areas have all the infrastructure they need to grow. Businesses should then be free from the unnecessary Government red tape that has got in the way of rural economic growth in the past.

"For too long, rural England was neglected by central Government and its businesses struggled to achieve their ambitions.  We've already transformed the prospects of thousands of rural businesses and, want to make sure that change is felt in every part of rural England.  To do this, we've created the first 'rural contract' to give rural areas the power to hold us to account on our promise to grow the rural economy and support thriving rural communities."

Harry Cotterell, President of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), said:

"We welcome this focus on rural economic growth. Long-term sustainability and the competitiveness of rural businesses are crucial in the present economic climate. It is vital Defra understands the needs and interests of rural businesses as well as those who live and work in rural areas."

Central to the Government's drive to unlock the economic potential of rural England is its pledge to achieve the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015.  In Cumbria today, Mr Paterson will celebrate with one of the first two communities to have been given a pre-contract agreement for funding for superfast fibre optic broadband.  525 homes and businesses in Garsdale and Dentdale will be connected following the Government's £157,500 investment in the Fibre Garden community-led project.  This is part of the Government's £20 million Rural Community Broadband Fund, and in addition to its £530 million Broadband Delivery UK programme.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said:

"Superfast broadband is key to the economic prosperity of rural communities.  The Government is investing £680 million in delivering the best broadband in Europe – and we are slashing red tape to get the programme moving quickly.  The Government means business and superfast broadband will help kick start our economy."

The Government is determined that businesses in rural areas should not be held back by the challenges of their location, and rural communities should have fair access to public services.  The Rural Statement formalizes this ambition and makes clear that, to achieve these aims, the Government will engage directly with rural communities and businesses so that they can influence the changes needed.

As one part of this process of engagement, all Defra ministers are going on a series of Rural Roadshows.  Rural Roadshows allow ministers to hear first-hand about rural issues from communities and businesses, to discover what help is needed to support rural growth and jobs, and when the Government needs to step back and let them thrive. Today, on his Rural Roadshow in Wiltshire, Defra minister, Richard Benyon will visit an 'enterprise hub' created by the region's Rural Growth Network.  In five regions across the country, Rural Growth Networks are expected to create a total of more than 3,000 jobs and 700 start-up businesses following £15 million total Government investment.

Source: ©Defra

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