"Countryside at a Crossroads" response

The Rural Services Network has welcomed a House of Lords report which says the government is failing rural communities.

The "Countryside at a Crossroads" report was published by a House of Lords select committee which has been scrutinising the government's rural policies and their delivery.

It recommends that government responsibility for rural issues should be transferred away from Defra.

    See also: Government 'failing rural communities' – Lords

Responding to the recommendation, Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: “We welcome such a thoughtful, detailed and hard-hitting report."

The document says 12 years of cutbacks have diminished the resources given to departments and bodies which promote the needs of rural communities.

It says this has had a negative impact on and the social and economic welfare of rural areas – which must be reversed.


The committee highlights that independent bodies, such as the Commission for Rural Communities, have been abolished.

It says their loss has significantly weakened the government's understanding of rural society, leading to policy changes that fail to account for the negative impacts for people in rural communities.

The lives of those who live in the countryside have been neglected as a result, concludes the committee's report.

Responsibility for rural policy should be transferred from Defra to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, it recommends.

This ministry already delivers many of the key services that support rural vitality.

Mr Biggsa said: "We agree that closure of the Commission for Rural Communities was to the detriment of rural communities.

    Unbiased research

“In particular, the Commission's unbiased research and reports which provided informed opinion as to the potential impacts of policies are sorely missed."

The network agreed that the loss of the Commission had diminished the Government’s understanding of rural societies, economies and communities, added Mr Biggs.

"Ensuring that the needs of rural communities are recognised and addressed must be a real priority across the whole of Government – not just by Defra," he said.

"As such, we support the report's recommendation that responsibility for "rural proofing" government policy should move to the Cabinet Office to give it the prominence it deserves.

"But we are not wholly convinced by the recommendation that responsibility for rural policy should be transferred from DEFRA to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

"While we appreciate the reasons for the recommendation, we are concerned that rural policy issues could be swamped or sidelined by the ministry’s very wide remit."

"We consider they could sit better with rural proofing in the Cabinet Office."


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