by Paul Dixon, Rural Evidence Manager

ACRE, Plunkett Foundation, The Rural Coalition and The Rural Services Network have come together to reach out to new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, following the Conservative Party success at the General Election.

The letter welcomes the recognition in the Conservative Party manifesto to support rural life and builds on our letter in July to Mr Johnson which hoped that he would recognise those living in rural areas and work with us to stop our communities from being left behind and without vital services.

You can read the letter below.

18th December 2019

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of our respective organisations, we offer our congratulations on your success in the General Election and your re-appointment as Prime Minister. Through our members, together we represent communities across rural England and we share a common interest in achieving and sustaining a living, working and thriving countryside.

We welcome the recognition in your Manifesto of the need to support rural life and coastal communities and, in particular, the confirmation of the commitments on broadband and mobile coverage; the intention to tackle rural crime; and the desire to improve the bus network. However, rural communities and businesses must also benefit from the other policies outlined in the Manifesto, such as improvements to the NHS and social care; support for small businesses (which are the bedrock of the rural economy); investing in schools; and improving public services. Rural communities, and not just towns and cities, would also benefit from the proposed Community Ownership and Cultural Investment Funds.

The various formulae which distribute central government funding to support service delivery at the local level need amending as soon as possible so that they fully reflect the rural context – including the higher costs of service delivery. Without this, rural communities will not receive a fair share of existing resources or the additional funding detailed in your Manifesto.

Rural areas will also need help to participate fully and to achieve their full potential; many feel left out or overlooked and remote from the decisions affecting their lives. It is, therefore, essential that the impacts of Brexit and your wider domestic policy agenda on rural communities and economies – not just agriculture, but more widely – are fully understood and reflected in programmes, such as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Our previous letter to you in July made the case for the Government to set out its vision for, and commitment to, communities and businesses in rural England through a comprehensive rural strategy, providing the framework for rural proofing policies and programmes and for their delivery in a way that enables rural England to play its full part in the future of the country. We still believe this is the best way forward and we hope that you will look again at developing such a strategy across government. But, meanwhile, we are ready to play our part in assisting you and your Government to ensure the rural dimension is built in as you implement your programme in the coming years. We can offer the help of our members from all parts of the country, who have a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

We very much look forward to working with you and your Government. We are copying this letter to Theresa Villiers, in her capacity as lead Minister for rural policy.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Cecilia Motley, Chair, Rural Services Network (RSN)

David Emerson, CBE, Chair, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE)

Margaret Clark CBE, Chair, Rural Coalition and Chair, Plunkett Foundation