ACRE calls on Government to invest in local communities
by Felicity Humphrey,

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) announced new calls on Government at Dorset LEADER conference ahead of Brexit.

For twenty years rural communities in England have benefited from a little publicised element of the European Common Agricultural Policy. The programme known as LEADER ensures 5% of the money that goes to each Country must be used for bottom-up, community led, projects to help develop the rural economy and protect basic services. To date, Dorset has received £2.8m, but as the UK plans to come out of the EU, it’s vital that the UK Government makes early decisions about the way in which future support for rural communities and the rural economy will be managed.

We are calling on Government to invest in local communities by putting them at the heart of economic and service development in all rural areas.

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) are a national body for 38 rural community organisations and have supported rural areas for 32 years. Speaking at the conference, ACRE Chair David Emerson CBE said “We are calling on Government to invest in local communities by putting them at the heart of economic and service development in all rural areas. Learning from the LEADER programme, we should all be urging Government to make it possible for LEPs to commit to programmes of this kind in rural areas for at least five years and to renew these on a rolling basis. In order to accelerate the development of good practice, we are encouraging DEFRA to establish a national rural network of local programmes of this kind. We at ACRE believe there is an urgent need to step up our ambition for the rural economy and the contribution that the whole rural community can make to the nation’s challenges.”

Whilst the future for rural development funding remains uncertain, ACRE is not alone in its concerns as their calls come days after the House of Lords debated the need for a Rural Strategy.