Rural Economy Spotlight - March 2019

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network highlighting a selection of current rural economic development news, issues and opportunities

Sign up to the call for a Rural Strategy

The Rural Services Network believes that the government should take the lead and work with interested organisations to produce a comprehensive long term and funded Rural Strategy.  

RSN have developed a Template Rural Strategy which sets out the rationale for calling for such a strategy including the following component parts:

  • A Thriving Rural Economy
  • A Digitally connected countryside
  • A Place everyone can get around
  • An Affordable Place to live
  • A fair deal on health and social care
  • A Place to learn and grow
  • A settlement (including fair funding for rural services) to support local action
  • A rural proofed policy framework

RSN us asking as many organisations and individuals as possible to join the call on Government to produce a Rural Strategy to set out their priorities for England’s Rural Communities and the Rural Economy for the future. If you would like to find out more, read the Template Rural Strategy and sign up to the call please follow this link.

Rural Opportunities in Local Industrial Strategies – a workshop to share your experience

Roger Turner of the Rural Enterprise UK team at Newcastle University writes:

“In the coming months, many local authorities, business and community groups will be working with their Local Enterprise Partnerships as they all prepare Local Industrial Strategies.  For some this may be the first tangible evidence that the aims and processes of the UK Industrial Strategy, launched in November 2017, has relevance to their area’s challenges and opportunities.  A few others may have been involved in developing new Sector Deals, or exploring how to boost business productivity, also parts of the UK Strategy.

“Whatever your experience of this major direction for the UK’s future economies, Newcastle University’s Rural Enterprise UK team want to encourage rural stakeholders to cooperate and share their experience.  So, they have worked with the Strategy’s policy leaders from the Department of Business (BEIS), and with LEPs to bring rural and enterprise bodies across England and Scotland an opportunity to discuss progress, share insight, suggest activities, make contacts or offer examples that might benefit our economies.”

This Workshop will be held at Newcastle University’s Urban Sciences Building on Wednesday, 27th March from 11am to 3.45pm.  They have a few places still available, a wide-ranging agenda, and organisations from Cornwall to the Highlands and Islands already booked. The team would welcome more members of the Rural Services Network to join them at the workshop.  If you wish to attend, or want to know more, please email REUK’s Roger Turner or complete and submit their online form via this link.

They look forward to welcoming you to Newcastle University to develop more rural opportunities and partnerships for rural economies.   

£600 million of Stronger Towns Fund available for competitive bids

The Communities Secretary announced on 4 March 2019 a new £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund for England. £1 billion of the new fund will be allocated using a needs-based formula with allocations already made per region.

The formula is based on a combination of productivity, income, skills, deprivation metrics and proportion of the population living in towns. This targets funding at those places with economies that are performing relatively less well to the England average, whose residents are living on lower incomes, and where larger proportions of the population have low skill attainment.

The remaining £600 million will be available through a competitive process.

“The government recognises that some of our most prosperous regions have pockets of deprivation and neighbourhoods that have not fully benefited from the success of their wider regional economy. That is why we are retaining a portion of the fund to be allocated competitively. As with any competition, the strongest proposals will be supported.”

You can find further details via this link.

Economic Factsheets available by local authority area

To inform and contextualise a local authority area's economic situation, RSN has produced factsheets for every member authority providing a wide range of facts, figures and associated graphs. The factsheets provide rural and urban averages, and averages for the classification of the authority (for example district, unitary or county average). These are incredibly useful and have proved very popular with RSN members. You can access all the factsheets via the RSN website.

Offshore Wind Sector Deal signed

Clean, green offshore wind is set to power more than 30% of British electricity by 2030, according to an announcement made by Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry on 7 March 2018 with the launch of the new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

“This deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and over £40 billion of infrastructure investment in the UK.”

This is the tenth Sector Deal from the Industrial Strategy signed by Business Secretary Greg Clark. It is backed by UK renewables companies and also aims to increase the sector target for the amount of UK content in homegrown offshore wind projects to 60% to maximise the benefit to local communities. The deal will also spearhead a new £250 million Offshore Wind Growth Partnership “to make sure UK companies in areas like the North East, East Anglia, Humber and the Solent continue to be competitive and are leaders internationally in the next generation of offshore wind innovations in areas such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, new materials, floating wind and larger turbines,”

You can read more on the deal via this link

Calling all rural LEPs

Local Enterprise Partnerships with a strong interest in rural businesses and rural communities are being urged to join he Rural Services Partnership (RSP).

RSP is a long-standing not-for-profit membership company Limited by Guarantee and is a component of the Rural Services Network (RSN).  The RSP is the non-local government part of the RSN and works predominately with both private and third sector service providers in rural England. Working closely with the RSN’s local authority members, the RSP lobbies for a fair deal for rural communities to maintain and enhance their social and economic wellbeing and viability.

Services available for members of the RSP include:

  • Rural Bulletin – a weekly bulletin of topical issues affecting rural England, including: health, transport, youth, older people, housing and economy. The Bulletin reaches over 25,000 recipients each week, including over 140 local authorities.
  • National rural campaigning on a range of critical issues and consultations.
  • Annual Rural Conference and regional rural seminars – an opportunity to share good practice and discuss current issues.
  • Rural Funding Digest – a monthly round up of grant and funding opportunities for rural organisations.
  • State of Rural Services Report – a biennial report prepared by Rural England, Community Interest Company, presenting the most recent evidence and trends regarding the provision of a range of services in rural England.
  • Rural Observatory – the Observatory opens the window to a statistical review of rural life. It provides an analysis and commentary on the key services provisions and issues affecting rural communities utilising publicly available statistics. A very useful source of data to inform funding bids and lobbying campaigns.

RSP is keen to attract more LEPs to take advantage of the offer and contribute to the rural economy debate. Any LEPs interested in finding out more should contact Jon Turner of RSN.

Opportunity to influence government telecoms priorities

Government want to know what you think about the draft Statement of Strategic Priorities (SSP) for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum and post.

The power for the Government to designate an SSP was introduced in the Digital Economy Act 2017. This is the first time the Government is exercising this power. Once the SSP is formally designated, Ofcom must have regard to it when exercising its regulatory functions.

The Government has identified the following strategic priority areas to be covered by the Statement of Strategic Priorities (SSP):

Section 1 – World-class digital infrastructure: The Government’s commitment to world-class digital infrastructure for the UK, reflecting the conclusions of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR).

Section 2 – Furthering the interests of telecoms consumers: The Government’s commitment to safeguarding the interests of telecoms consumers, including the vulnerable and less engaged, by ensuring they are better informed and protected.

Section 3 – Secure and resilient telecoms infrastructure: The Government’s commitment to ensuring the UK’s telecoms networks and services are secure and resilient.

Section 4 – Postal services: The Government’s commitment to a universal postal service and need for industry and Ofcom to work together to secure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

This consultation closes on 27 March 2019 so there is still time to submit your thoughts. You can read more here.

A rural view on Brexit

Carole Walker is a former political news correspondent with the BBC.  She has developed her own Podcast called 'The View from Here.’ Talking about the Podcasts, Carole says "These podcasts will explore the issues which matter to you in your local community. They will focus on the concerns of people living in rural areas and small towns who often struggle to ensure their voices are heard in the corridors of power. This is politics outside the Westminster bubble."

This episode, titled 'The Brexit vote in rural communities,' features George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk and a former minister, who details his views on why so many people in rural communities voted for Brexit and are in despair at the endless bickering over the decision to leave the EU. The podcast is available by clicking here.

Economic Development CPD sessions announced

The Institute of Economic Development has announced its 2019 calendar of Continuing Professional Development sessions. Based on a series of popular topics, these CPD events are available to IED members and non-members and will be held in different locations across the UK.

The next session, focussing on inward investment, takes place on 26 March followed by ‘Delivering Place Competitiveness’ on 9 April and ‘Economic Data and Evidence-based Strategies’ on 2 May.

You can view the full calendar of events on the IED website.

Rail Review looking for your views

The government has issued a call for evidence to support the Williams Rail Review, led by independent chair Keith Williams. The review was established to recommend the most appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to support the delivery of the government’s vision for the railway.

The review invites written contributions to inform its work on any or all of the review principles, as set out in its terms of reference:

  • commercial models for the provision of rail services that prioritise the interests of passengers and taxpayers
  • rail industry structures that promote clear accountability and effective joint-working for both passengers and the freight sector
  • a system that is financially sustainable and able to address long-term cost pressures
  • a railway that is able to offer good value fares for passengers, while keeping costs down for taxpayers
  • improved industrial relations, to reduce disruption and improve reliability for passengers
  • a rail sector with the agility to respond to future challenges and opportunities

The review will look at the whole rail industry, including:

  • increasing integration between track and train
  • how to improve transport services across UK regions and devolved nations, including exploring options for devolution of rail powers
  • improving value for money for passengers and taxpayers

The review’s findings and recommendations are due to be published in a government white paper in autumn 2019, with reform of the sector to begin in 2020. The evidence portal will remain open until the end of May 2019. You can read more here.

Broadband Voucher scheme available

The Nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) will provide vouchers worth up to £2500 for a small or medium sized business or £500 to residents to help with the costs of connecting to full fibre broadband.

The scheme is part of a wider government plan to get more homes and businesses connected to full fibre broadband. It builds on the £200 million Local Full Fibre Networks programme which gives funding to local areas to boost full fibre delivery and on trial voucher schemes operated in four parts of the country.

You can read more via this link.

Keep up with what’s happening at the Lords Rural Economy Committee

Following the closure of the call for evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy, the Committee heard from a wide range of stakeholders on specific issues and considered information on a range of topics. The Committee is currently preparing its final report. You can keep up with progress by following this link.

Statistical digest of rural England published

Official statistics concerning rural England are published regularly by Defra. The latest February 2019 edition of the “Statistical Digest of Rural England” contains a wide range of useful statistics and is available via this link. These cover:

  • Rural population & migration
  • Rural Economy
  • Rural living

Defra’s December 2018 “Rural Economic Bulletin” comparing high level economic indicators across rural and urban England has also been published and is available via this link. The indicators currently used are:

  • claimant count – proportion of working age population claiming unemployment benefits
  • economic activity – proportion of economically active population unemployed and proportion of working age population in employment
  • redundancies – number of redundancies per 1,000 workers
  • house prices - average house prices and annual percent change

Tailored local information for Neighbourhood Planning available

A successful neighbourhood plan must be based on evidence and an understanding of the place they relate to. Communities need to gather a range of evidence and local knowledge before writing their plan. RSN has collated a selection of evidence, which may be useful to communities in starting to shape their evidence base.  This is tailored to each local authority area and is available via this link.

All Party Parliamentary Group – influence in Westminster

The Rural Services APPG supported by RSN provides an excellent opportunity to put issues of the moment in front of MPs in the heart of Westminster and to seek to influence national debate.  If you have any views on key topics which should be covered in future APPGs please contact Andy Dean.

Chambers of Trade – keep calm and sign up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.  We have a number of Chambers of Trade, Commerce and Local Business Networks who are members of RSN and currently receive our bulletins.  If there is a business organisation in your area who you think would find our bulletins useful, please pass this bulletin onto them and ask them to contact Andy Dean with their contact details so we can ensure they are included in future distributions.

Future editions of the Rural Economy Spotlight

The next edition of this bulletin will be distributed in June 2019.  If you have any suggestions as to future content or would like to submit a short article for inclusion please contact Andy Dean.


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