THE Government’s commitment to the North is welcome – and overdue. However Ministers also need to show similar urgency when it comes to the plight of rural areas – the underinvestment and lack of political attention is now chronic.
From funding for schools, doctors and other key public services to protection from flooding, Yorkshire and Britain’s countryside communities remain the poor relation.
And this is further exposed by the latest fire response times – and the growing disparities between urban and rural areas when it comes to responding to the most urgent incidents.
Yet while this is understandable – each fire station in, say, North Yorkshire has a far greater area to cover than its counterparts in a large conurbation – it is further evidence that the Government needs to reappraise funding arrangements for rural Britain ahead of the Budget.
After all, Treasury chief Secretary Rishi Sunak’s Richmond seat could not be more steeped in the countryside. And just as he, and others, accept that the Treasury’s longstanding formula has disadvantaged the North both socially and economically, a similar case can probably be made for rural Britain.
But it is more fundamental than this. As well-run authorities, like North Yorkshire County Council, are left with no option other than to scale back key services, there does not appear to be any policy co-ordination in Whitehall.
Theresa Villiers, the current Environment Secretary, has not made a favourable impression – she appears totally unsuited to her brief – while it also clear that coastal towns are not getting the economic, or environmental, attention that they, too, need.
As such, the message to Boris Johnson is a simple one ahead of the PM’s post-Brexit shake-up – you ignore rural and coastal areas at your peril.