MPs voice fears for rural services

MPs returning to parliament after the general election have voiced concern for the future of rural services.

Addressing the House of Commons on Thursday (28 May), Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers said the previous coalition government had done a lot to support rural communities.

"The coalition did much good work to support our market towns and high streets, and I am sure this government will want to continue that," he told MPs.

    See also: How to ensure the new government 'thinks rural'

High street banks were an important component of the market town vibrancy, said Mr Vickers. Yet NatWest was proposing to close a number of branches in northern Lincolnshire.

Highlighting the planned closure of a branch in Barton-upon-Humber, Mr Vickers asked for a debate about the importance of high street banks to local market towns.

Responding, House of Commons leader Chris Gayling MP said he recognised that many MPs for Lincolnshire would be focusing on the protection of rural services.

He said: "The loss of services from rural market towns can have a serious effect on communities. I commend him for his work in championing his area."

Mr Grayling encouraged Mr Vickers to request an adjournment debate or to raise the matter during the debate on the Queen's Speech.

He added: "The protection of services in rural areas remains a matter of the utmost importance and will continue to be so for the government."

Stephen Phillips, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, said the issue was broader than one related solely to rural banks and services.

"This is not just about the protection of public services in rural communities; it is also about fair funding across rural communities in this country."

It was important to have a proper debate about the subject, said Mr Phillips.

"May we have a debate, in Government time, on fair funding for rural communities, so that my constituents and those who make their homes in rural Britain can know what this government intend to do to ensure that their public services are properly funded?"

Mr Grayling said he had heard "very clearly" the point made by My Phillips.

"I represent a county where similar arguments have often been made, although it is less geographically spread than his own.

"He will, of course, have the opportunity to raise this issue in next week's [Queen's] Speech debate on English matters as well as those relating to devolution, and I hope he will make that point to ministers."


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.