The call by the CLA for mobile operators to make 4G connectivity available for all businesses and communities comes in a week which began with the Campaign to Protect Rural England claiming that Local Enterprise Partnerships – and other devolved bodies – were neglecting the rural economy because policy, and investment, was focused so heavily in favour of urban areas.
Yet, while Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has signalled a desire on his part for improved connectivity, he made insufficient progress as a junior minister in charge of digital policy and these interventions point, again, to inadequate leadership at the heart of Government when it comes to rural affairs, the sustainability of local communities and maximising the potential of the UK’s world-leading agriculture and tourism industries.
For, while local decisions should be taken by bodies like the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority which is formulating a new blueprint, such bodies have seen their budgets disproportionately hit by austerity cuts while Defra’s added focus on animal welfare, and important contemporary issues like plastic pollution, does appear to be at the expense of rural residents and the provision of key services.
If the Government is on the side of rural Britain, and the Tories have traditionally been the party of the countryside, it will endorse, and then implement, the CLA’s social media campaign, called #4GForAll, so residents and businesses already deprived of half-decent transport links are not denied a now priceless utility service – mobile phone coverage.
Assuming Ministers have a good enough connection in Westminster, it just requires them to dial into this policy agenda before the countryside is cut off by the poor political reception that has been allowed to prevail for too long on this issue.