Levelling Up White Paper failed to deliver for rural communities, claims CLA president

The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper failed to deliver for rural communities, the president of the Country Land and Business Association has said.

Writing for The Yorkshire Post today, Mark Tufnell called on the Government to stop treating the countryside “like a museum” and introduce policies to unlock the economic potential of rural areas.

Mr Tufnell, who became president of the CLA in November, which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners in England and Wales, in November, said: “According to Defra’s figures, the rural economy – through no fault of its own – is 18 per cent less productive than the national average, and closing this gap would add £43bn to the economy.

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“Government processes so often allow good rural policymaking to fall between the cracks of Whitehall departments.

Michael Gove's Levelling Up White Paper did not deliver for the rural economy, it has been claimed.

“This problem reminds us that rural policy is not for Defra alone. It is for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, as well as numerous other departments. The same is true in Wales, where many key policy areas are devolved.

“The long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper has now been published by Michael Gove.

“We hoped the UK Government would register its ambition to deliver growth across the whole country, including the countryside.

“Sadly, the paper failed this most basic of tests. This White Paper was billed as a programme for economic growth in left behind areas, but it is nothing of the sort.

“Rural communities desperately needed an ambitious and robust plan to create jobs, share prosperity and strengthen communities, but Government has failed to deliver it.

“Rural voters put their faith in this government, but this White Paper suggests that government doesn’t understand them, their needs or their aspirations.

“I registered this concern with Ministers, but was told we should wait for further policy announcements on the National Food Strategy, the Rural Proofing paper and the Planning Bill.

“For those of us who have waited so long for a meaningful growth strategy, the fear is that the promised ‘jam tomorrow’ may never be realised.

“For this reason, the CLA will become even more vocal in the months ahead, not least as we look forward to the report of one of the biggest parliamentary inquiries ever into the health of the rural economy, in which the CLA has played the leading support role.”

He said the CLA’s policy suggestions include the introduction of planning reforms to allow more small-scale housing developments, speeding up the delivery of improved broadband for all rural communities and making the current 12.5 per cent VAT rate for tourism businesses permanent to bring the UK in line with European holiday destinations.

Mr Tufnell said it was still possible to bring about positive changes.

“Too often the Government treats the countryside as a museum, erring on the side of no development and low investment.

“But we desperately need policies designed to unlock the potential of the countryside.

“We call on Government to listen carefully to the ambitions of rural businesses and the communities they support.

“We are ready and raring to go, and want to work with Ministers to create prosperity across the countryside.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was approached for comment.

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