An economy that works for all2022-03-30T09:36:42+00:00

An economy that works for all

People living in rural areas should have access to a wide range of jobs that allow them to reach their potential. Diversifying the economy, harnessing the possibilities of digital connectivity and supporting the creation of local enterprises – particularly those set up for community benefit – can create better employment opportunities.

The rural economy in England has been traditionally reliant on farming and the visitor economy. Agriculture, forestry and fishing was the most common type of business in rural areas in 2019/20 whilst tourism related employment accounted for 15% of jobs.

This dependency however has its downsides. It can limit the jobs people are able to do locally and make communities vulnerable to market forces, especially in areas where economic activity is focused on a limited number of activities. It may also account for the fact that in 2020, median earnings in rural areas were £22,900 compared to £25,400 in urban areas (excluding London).

There are however plenty of opportunities for rural communities to diversify and strengthen local economies and the jobs they provide.

Members of the ACRE Network work within and without communities to help create better economic opportunities for rural communities.

At a strategic level, our members work with local government and other stakeholders to influence decisions that influence the local economy, for example the provision of broadband to remote areas. They have also previously delivered EU LEADER schemes which provided support and grant funding to help people set up innovative and diverse enterprises benefiting their rural community.

Many ACRE members offer more hands-on support to rural communities too. This can be in the form of skills-based training such as the building bridges programme operated by Community First, Wiltshire & Swindon, or helping young people get to work on loaned scooters as part of the Wheels to Work scheme in Derbyshire.

The ACRE Network also works closely with the Plunkett Foundation to inspire and support communities to set up community businesses which are often the only way that local communities can save valued services and jobs.

The government says it’s committed to ‘levelling up’. We want to make sure rural areas don’t miss out. For too long, development of rural economies has been an afterthought – but that must change.

Every agency charged with economic development in a local area (Local Enterprise Partnership, Mayoral Authority, Combined Authority) should fully account for the needs and circumstances of rural communities and strengthen the local economy in these areas.

For this to work, we are calling on the government to:

  • Ensure that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is used to support rural development proportionate to the share of the UK population living in these areas
  • Allocate a significant portion of the resources previously administered through EU programmes in each county to collaborative projects involving both local communities and local land-based businesses
  • Ensure that the UK’s Food Strategy explicitly addresses access to and affordability of good quality food in rural areas where major food retailers cannot be found but have significant influence over supply chains in these areas