A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has launched an inquiry that will explore how to boost the rural economy in a post-Covid world.
The inquiry, run by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse, will explore why rural productivity is 18% below the national average and identify solutions to help bridge the divide.
The inquiry will focus on the following themes:
- Connectivity – has the government given up on bridging the digital divide?
- Planning – is the planning system fit for purpose for economies and communities in rural areas?
- Land use – how can we better manage the land to meet the demand for environmental & climate delivery and food production?
- Skills – how can we futureproof a rural workforce?
- Tax – does the tax system provide benefits or barriers to rural productivity?
- Government Process – do government structures/mechanisms help or hinder the development of rural policy?
The APPG is welcoming written evidence from across the rural economy, and will run oral evidence sessions through the year.
Julian Sturdy MP (York Outer), who will co-chair the inquiry, said: “There are over 500,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, and together they form the backbone of the rural economy.
“It is critical to understand why this productivity disparity exists between urban and rural areas, and to explore meaningful ideas for how it can be eradicated. We encourage rural organisations and businesses to get in touch with their ideas.”
Lord Cameron of Dillington, who is co-chair of the APPG, said: “Levelling up the country is a key part of the Prime Minister’s agenda. As we emerge from the global pandemic, we must find new ways to create jobs and prosperity – ensuring opportunity finds its way into all rural communities.
“It’s important that we hear from those living and working in these rural areas so that we can discover what more can be done to grow the rural economy.”
The Country Land & Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses in England and Wales is supporting the inquiry.
Mark Bridgeman, President of the CLA, said: “Closing the rural productivity gap would add £43bn to the economy – creating hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs in communities everywhere. This would be on top of the £261bn the rural economy already contributes to the national economy.
“The reasons for the countryside’s lower productivity are complex. Key contributors are poor digital connectivity, an outdated planning systems, unnecessary bureaucracy and decades of underinvestment which have resulted in fewer opportunities for those living in rural areas. But none of these can be improved without political engagement.”
Anyone wishing to submit evidence should email firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the area(s) they wish to answer. The closing date is June 30 2021.