Rural Coalition claims government still has a long way to go if it is to achieve ‘levelling-up’ of rural communities
by Phillip Vincent,

Rural Coalition claims government still has a long way to go if it is to achieve ‘levelling-up’ of rural communities

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has joined 12 other organisations that make up the Rural Coalition in reflecting that Government has little to show for its commitment to positively address rural community needs.

The annual ‘Rural Proofing’ Report published recently was supposed to demonstrate how all government departments are ‘rural proofing’ their policy making. This is supposed to ensure fairer and more equitable outcomes for people living in rural areas where access to services can be much more difficult.

But the Coalition argues the report – which is the first of its kind to be published - is thin on evidence to suggest there has been any substantive impact on policy making across Whitehall. The responsibilities of some significant departments such as HM Treasury, Home Office, Department of Work and Pensions and Ministry of Justice receiving only passing mention.

Whilst the publication of Defra’s report is welcome in principle, it’s content unfortunately points to the fact that rural proofing, where Defra effectively nudges other departments to positively consider how their policies might be received in rural areas, is not being taken seriously enough

Jeremy Leggett, ACRE’s Policy Adviser said, “Whilst the publication of Defra’s report is welcome in principle, it’s content unfortunately points to the fact that rural proofing, where Defra effectively nudges other departments to positively consider how their policies might be received in rural areas, is not being taken seriously enough. It’s time for a stronger approach that government departments cannot avoid”.

In a briefing sent to the Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, the Rural Coalition calls for future reports to relate more obviously to rural proofing that has happened during the reporting year, offer a more transparent picture of how it has been applied and the positive outcomes of the process. It must provide more tangible evidence of how ‘rural proofing’ has happened across all departments and what the impact on rural people has been.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Rural Coalition Briefing can be downloaded here.

The Rural Coalition is thirteen national organisations who subscribe to a vision for a living and working countryside in England.

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is a national charity speaking up for and supporting rural communities. We work to create thriving, inclusive and economically active rural communities which have the services they need. We believe no one should be disadvantaged because of where they live. As the national body of the ACRE Network – England’s largest rural grouping of county-based local development charities – we support our members to deliver initiatives that equip people with the knowledge, skills, and connections needed to improve their community.