Government announces new initiative 'Unleashing Rural Opportunity'

At the Countryside Future Conference last week, the Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, Therese Coffey, unveiled the Government’s new initiative Unleashing Rural Opportunity.

She told delegates:

“Securing a fine and prosperous future for our countryside is not a niche concern. Far from it. It is a national priority. As Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, I make my pledge to you, indeed to people living and working in the countryside, that we will always champion the countryside and cherish rural ways of life.”

The initiative sets out actions the Government has already taken to boost rural areas alongside future commitments to ‘strengthen our rural communities’.

The RSN cautiously welcomed the news on the day.  Chief Executive, Kerry Booth, said:

“It is good to finally see a joined-up approach across Government departments. We know that you cannot tackle the challenges facing our rural communities in isolation.  For example, it is not about building more homes.  We need the right kind of homes in the right places, supported by an infrastructure including transport, health and education.  All of this also needs to be delivered in a timely manner before the urban/rural gap becomes even greater.”

Further analysis of the initiative reveals that some of the key issues raise by RSN and its members are being considered.  These include:

A review to build on the understanding of how deprivation in rural areas is measured, so that policies can be better designed to tackle it.

Publish a Future of Transport Rural Strategy setting out principles to support new innovative technologies in improving access to services, tackle isolation and increase access to jobs in rural and remote areas

Publish a Dental Plan and NHS England Workforce Plan

However, Chair of the RSN Board, Cllr Roger Phillips, says we need to see the fine print:

“There are a lot of promises in the document and commitments to consultations and reviews.  However, there is no evidence of funding commitments or serious change at this stage.

“The RSN has been calling on the Government to commit to fair funding for rural areas for some time now.  Reviewing how it measures deprivation is the first steps towards this.  However, it is only that, a first step.  Change needs to happen now or we risk another rural generation being left behind.”

Further analysis of the initiative is being carried out and we will be publishing a RSN Rural Lens Review of it in due course.

Meanwhile, you can read the full document here:

Alternatively, you can read the Secretary of State’s address to the conference here:


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