Rural Economy Spotlight - September 2018

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

Agriculture Bill introduced at Parliament

The Agriculture Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on 12 September 2018. This stage is formal and takes place without any debate. MPs will next consider the Bill at Second Reading on 10 October 2018.

An explanatory note to the Bill states: “The Agriculture Bill will provide the legal framework for the United Kingdom to leave the Common Agricultural Policy and establish a new system based on public money for public goods for the next generation of farmers and land manager.”

As indicated in Defra’s earlier paper entitled ‘Health and harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit,’ the focus of the Bill is on agriculture and the environment with little reference to wider community, social and economic issues. The implication is that those interested in these topics will need to await publication of consultation on the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund to find out the government’s plans for supporting the wider rural economy and rural communities.

You can read the full Bill, explanatory notes and any briefing papers produced on the Agriculture Bill via this link.

RSN responds to Lords Rural Economy Select Committee call for evidence

The closing date for submissions in response to the call for evidence from the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy was 10 September. Many RSN members submitted their own responses with RSN also submitting a collective response. RSN has consistently reminded government of the scale, diversity and value of the rural economy: “Rural economies are incredibly diverse and make a significant contribution to national economic performance.  Farming and tourism are of critical importance but to pigeon-hole rural economies as being solely about these sectors would be a mistake. The environment is of pivotal significance to rural economies. Farming, forestry and land management sectors help to create the environment on which the tourism sector depends and to which a vast array of economic activities are attracted – from manufacturing and service industries to knowledge intensive and creative sectors.

“Rural areas are home to 9.4 million people according to 2016 population estimates.  In other words, 17% of the population of England live in small rural towns, villages, hamlets and isolated dwellings – that’s more people than live in Greater London.

“The contribution of the rural economy is all too often over-looked or miss-represented in national and regional policy making. There are 547,000 registered businesses based in rural areas (and probably as many micro-businesses again which are unregistered).  They are 24% of all the registered businesses in England, so form a vital part of the national economy.

“Those registered businesses have an annual turnover of £434 billion and represent an incredible range of business activity – land-based industries (including farming) are important but 85% of rural businesses are from other sectors.”

You can read a full copy of the RSN response here.

Project brings full fibre to Guildford’s rural communities

Funding for a community project to provide full ‘fibre to the premises’ (FTTP) broadband to connect Guildford’s rural communities was agreed by the Executive of Guilford Borough Council on 28 August.

An investment of £10,000 will go to ‘Broadband for Surrey Hills Limited’ also known as B4SH, a local community benefit group which aims to install ‘hyperfast’ broadband networks with 1 Gigabit (1000Mb/sec) download and upload symmetrical speeds throughout the Surrey Hills.  The project is being facilitated by a number of local landowners and farmers who will grant free right of way or ‘wayleaves’ across their land for the FTTP.

The move supports the Council’s corporate priorities and plans which detail FTTP as the enabling technology for a range of applications in rural and urban areas such as town centre WIFI, 5G and LoRa (long range) networks.

Cllr David Bilbe, Lead Councillor for Enterprise and Economic Development explains: “Following an independent consultation the Council took the decision to invest in the community project as testament to its commitment to future-proofing the Borough’s economy. Although the initial phases of the project have mainly a social benefit for those rural areas with poor broadband coverage, the scheme as a whole will help create conditions for the economic transformation of our rural and urban economies. All of our futures are dependent on technology from business, leisure, retail and education to those currently less mainstream such as telemedicine and elderly care.”

Tim Metson, Director at Broadband for Surrey Hills Ltd says: ‘We are delighted that Guildford Borough Council have decided to invest in B4SH. This investment demonstrates how important the connectivity of rural communities throughout the Surrey Hills is to Guildford Borough Council and is also testament to the work achieved so far by BASH’s volunteers. Our intention to install a hyperfast network to replace an ageing infrastructure will enable rural residents and businesses to enjoy connectivity speeds only achieved in a minority of the UK at present.

For more information contact Emma McBriarty at Guilford Borough Council.

Broadband Voucher scheme available

The Nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS) will provide vouchers worth up to £3000 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.

‘Global Britain’ reading list produced

The House of Commons Library has pulled together a wide range of material on the theme of ‘Global Britain’ which, they describe, “has become a rallying cry for those who want to see the UK stride confidently into a post-Brexit future. Opponents of Brexit say that this perspective ignores the damage being done to the UK’s national interests by leaving the European Union.”

This is one of several reading lists on Brexit-related issues published by the Library and can be accessed via this link.

Post-Brexit England Commission autumn roadshows

The Local Government Association’s People and Places Board has established the Post-Brexit England Commission to broaden its understanding of the issues and opportunities facing the towns, villages, rural, deeply rural and coastal communities of non-metropolitan England in the coming years.

In May 2018, the Commission began a series of roadshows across the country, gathering evidence on the challenges rural and coastal communities are facing and the local policy levers needed to tackle them.

In July 2018, it published an interim report detailing its findings to date: ‘The Future of Non-Metropolitan England: moving the conversation on.’ It details seven key areas in which the Commission proposes local government must be given the powers to address local issues to support the future success of non-metropolitan England. Read the report here.

The Commission is now conducting its second phase of work to test and develop its findings and explore the future role of councils in delivering locally designed solutions to these challenges. It is visiting different parts of the country to hear from councils, public sector agencies, businesses and local representatives with a stake in their area.

In a final report, to be published in March 2019, the Commission intends “to set out a compelling case for change and highlight the once in a lifetime opportunity to chart a new course for public service delivery that draws on the trusted public leadership of councils to achieve better outcomes for communities.”

The current roadshow dates are as follows:

West Midlands: Thursday 4 October  Staffordshire County Council

North West: Tuesday 16 October Lancashire County Council

East of England: Tuesday 27 November Essex County Council

South East: Tuesday 18 December LGA 18 Smith Square

Yorkshire & Humber: January TBC

North East: February TBC

East Midlands and South West Roadshows were held in May 2018

To book a place on any of the roadshows follow the link through the relevant date above.

Additional funding for ‘Pub is the Hub’

More than 30 rural communities are set to benefit from new or expanded village services from libraries, shops to post offices all delivered by their local pub, Community Pubs Minister Jake Berry has announced.

The government has confirmed a further £70,000 of funding for ‘Pub is The Hub’ to support their work in encouraging rural pubs to widen their ‘offer’ beyond food and drink that not only helps pubs to thrive but also helps to bring communities together.

Community Pubs Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Our great British pubs are not only places for local people to get together over a pint, being at the heart of their communities they are perfectly placed to deliver valuable services, especially in rural areas. From postal facilities to community playgrounds, Pub is The Hub provides fantastic support to licensees wishing to diversify, ensuring their pubs are both thriving and firmly rooted in their local communities.

Jake Berry also welcomed £30,000 of additional funding to ‘Pub is The Hub’ from Heineken UK and called on the major players in the pubs and drinks industry, to offer their support to help village locals up and down the country.

John Longden, Chief Executive of Pub is The Hub said: “The government’s support for the Community Services Fund has been essential to ensure that we can get much needed investment and support to just some of the thriving pubs and their community-minded licensees that want to go the extra mile to support their communities. We are always grateful for the faith the government has shown in our initiative but even more so for the amazing small enterprises who take the plunge into diversification to support their neighbourhoods.”

More information about ‘Pub is The Hub’ is available via this link.

Unemployment figures at lowest level since 1975

A paper recently published by the House of Commons Library provides figures for the number of people claiming unemployment benefits (the “claimant count”) by parliamentary constituency, as well as a summary of the latest labour market statistics for the UK as a whole. The unemployment rate of 4.0% in April-June 2018 was at its lowest level since 1975, while the employment rate remains at a very high level and the inactivity rate was at a very low level. The growth in earnings was relatively weak. Average weekly pay excluding bonuses grew faster than prices, while pay including bonuses grew at a similar rate to prices.

You can read the full paper here.

Access to Cash Review underway

The independent Access to Cash Review has been established to consider consumer requirements for cash over the next five to fifteen years.

Its main objective is to ensure that there remains an effective and inclusive cash access service that meets the needs of all consumers, regardless of their personal circumstances, for as long as necessary.

The Access to Cash Review will:

  • Understand consumer needs and implications for cash access requirements over the next five to fifteen years.
  • Review the evidence on future trends in cash usage and ATM coverage.
  • Identify and analyse options for retaining nationwide access to cash.
  • Propose a way forward.

The review is being funded by cash machine network, Link, and has been broadly welcomed. However, Robert Downes, development manager for the Greater Manchester regional branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, has called for the small business community to be represented on the panel. He said: “In terms of this review specifically – we look forward to feeding in. However, it really needs to see a representative of the small business community on the review panel itself to make sure the views of the smallest – who stand to be most affected by big changes – are heard.

The Access to Cash Review has issued a Call for Evidence. The closing date for submissions is 30 September 2018. You can find out more and submit your views via this link.

Everything you want to know about Full Fibre Networks

A Commons Library Briefing on the Government’s policy for building a UK-wide full-fibre broadband network by 2033 was published earlier this month. It covers what is full-fibre broadband compared to superfast broadband and the Government's strategy for promoting full-fibre set out in its Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), published in July 2018.

“Full-fibre networks use fibre optic cables to connect the exchange directly to each premises. Full-fibre connections are capable of speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps;1 Gpbs is equal to 1000 Mbps). They are more reliable than copper-based networks; and cheaper to maintain and operate. Full-fibre networks are also important for supporting high capacity mobile broadband networks.

“While superfast broadband is normally sufficient for today's domestic broadband needs, the demand for data and internet-connected devices is growing. Although there is some uncertainty about whether and when future data demands will outstrip the capacity of existing copper-based networks, in July 2018 the National Infrastructure Commission recommended that investment in building a national full-fibre network should begin now to avoid the potential consequences of not having the digital infrastructure to support future needs.”

You can read the full report here.

Brexit: next steps of UK’s withdrawal from the EU

You can read Parliament’s analysis of how leaving the EU will affect different policy areas in the UK via this link. This also contains up to date briefings on negotiations, a Brexit glossary and a summary of recent news on exiting the EU from across the Parliament.

Statistical digest of rural England published

Official statistics concerning rural England are published regularly by Defra. The latest June 2018 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 June 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 four 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

Regional and local growth statistics published

Statistics on the size of regional/country and local economies, recent economic growth in these areas, their contribution to total UK economic output, and rough comparisons of their living standards are available in a paper published in September 2018.

This briefing paper includes an analysis of recent economic growth rates, for 2016 as well as since 2010, and 1998. In addition to overall growth rates, figures for economic output per head are included (including in two maps at the back of the briefing) to provide very rough comparisons of living standards by local areas.

You can read the report via this link.

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 December 2018.  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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