The Country Land and Business Association, who represent 30,000 rural businesses in England and Wales, are writing to every Parliamentary candidate in every constituency in England and Wales to galvanize widespread support for the Rural Powerhouse initiative.
The Rural Powerhouse is a campaign to unleash the potential of the rural economy. It aims to close the rural productivity gap, adding £43bn to UK GVA per year, while transforming the lives of millions of people who live and work in the countryside.
Rural businesses cover everything from farming to tourism, housing to energy production. Owing to their location and unique circumstances, they often have to be agile and explore opportunities across different sectors. This entrepreneurialism, though, can be hampered by a lack of investment, government support and excessive red tape.
Political candidates who support the campaign will receive regular briefings and campaign materials throughout the election period, and beyond.
Incoming President of the CLA Mark Bridgeman said: “The rural economy has immense potential for economic growth and job creation, but we need the right policies to unleash it. It is 18 percent less productive than its urban counterpart, but realising this untapped potential could add £43bn extra each year to the economy in England alone, on top of the £250bn it already does.”
“The Rural Powerhouse campaign is rooted in the belief that the countryside has an exciting future and we all have a role in shaping it. Any future MP worth their salt should proudly back the campaign.”
But whoever is voted into power, the initiative sets out a new blueprint for the rural economy.
Mr Bridgeman continued: “The Rural Powerhouse is not just a campaign to last for a few weeks, with a few glossy pamphlets and press releases. It is a new approach for the Country Land and Business Association. At a time when political tensions are high, we are standing up proudly to say that we believe in the potential of the rural economy, and we are here to champion it.
“All MPs should know, as we do, that the countryside can provide answers to so many of the issues that concern ordinary people – from climate change and the environment to the housing crisis. We are ready and raring to go – and with the right political support we can realise the countryside’s huge economic and social potential.”
- A fully connected countryside
- Government has made a start but we have so much left to fulfil, and the commitment for a single rural network shouldn’t be dropped owing to the election.
- There must be interim targets placed within the network so that the mobile phone operators are held to account for improvement as the majority of the new system is due post 2024.
- 4G adds an estimated up to £75 billion to the UK economy over 10 years and only 67% of rural areas have access to good 4G. Broadband connectivity is also hugely important to emerging businesses, in order to reach full fibre by 2025, there needs to be a continual roll out in coverage.
- Government should commit to investing in electricity grid capacity across the country and make grid connections and upgrade more affordable to rural homes and businesses, so that rural areas can grow by generating clean energy and are ready for more electric cars and machinery.
- A planning system designed for rural communities
- Landowners want to contribute to the local economy and ease the national housing crisis
- All too often, the planning system stops them from by converting or building homes and offices, through a one-sized fits all approach and a lack of resource at local authority level.
- Ensuring villages can grow sympathetically and organically is key to ensuring their long-term vibrancy and success. It is vital to encouraging young families to live and work in rural areas.
- Profitable and sustainable farming
- Farming and agriculture is the bedrock of the rural economy. The future of farming has been “put on hold” owing to the political stagnation in Westminster.
- Farming addresses some of the big challenges that face the UK such as feeding the country, tackling climate change and restoring the natural environment.
- The Agriculture and Environmental Bills need to be fast-tracked through the new parliament to end uncertainty and help farmers plan for the future.
- Future trade deals with the EU should encourage as free and frictionless trade as possible. Any future deal with other countries, must not undercut the world-leading welfare and environmental standards of British farming.
- Investment in skills and innovation
- All sectors of the economy are facing similar questions around skills and preparing the workforce for a technology-led future economy.
- We will need to help farms as they transition to delivering a wide range of public goods alongside food production. The CLA is calling for a £200m a year investment in skills, innovation and advice to help them through the transition period.
- The sharing of best-practice and funding for innovation should be encouraged across the rural economy.
- A simpler tax regime
- Rural entrepreneurs are often forced to report on their different enterprises separately to HMRC. As a result, a single estate can have different businesses for farming, cottages or forestry, for example.
- As well as a more bureaucratic tax process, this can have knock on effects on issues such as business rate reliefs.
- We want government to allow land based businesses to report ad one single entity for tax purposes cutting red tape and bureaucracy.