The Next Government Must Not Leave Rural Communities Behind

Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) is urging politicians of all persuasions not to forget the needs and circumstances of people living and working in the countryside in the run up to the general election.

The charity claims that for too long, governments have overlooked the challenges that rural residents face, including diminishing public services, inadequate infrastructure, and housing which has become increasingly unaffordable resulting in hidden poverty and ageing communities.

Politically, the issues facing rural communities clearly matter – from recent shock byelections in North Shropshire, Tiverton and Honiton, Somerton and Frome and Mid-Bedfordshire, to Dorset Council changing control last week. A further 50+ rural parliamentary constituencies are also predicted to change hands at the general election based on current polling data.

Jeremy Leggett, ACRE’s Policy Adviser said,

“9.7 million people live in the English countryside, equivalent to the population of London. But more often than not, they don’t get the same attention from the government as their counterparts in the city. And people are starting to recognise this – whether it be disgruntled farmers protesting for the first time about cheap imports, young families given notice to leave their rental property to make way for another Airbnb letting, local businesses flooded again in Worcestershire, or pensioners unable to make their way to hospital because there’s no local clinics or public transport. We believe lots can be done to close this gap, from creating a new statutory advisory body charged with requiring government departments to appraise the impact of policies on rural dwellers, to funding much more community-led housing, and supporting villages to develop plans so they can become more resilient to climate change.”

ACRE has set out a suite of policy recommendations for the next government which it is sending to prospective parliamentary candidates via its 38 member organisations which work in support of rural community initiatives in every county of England. It is hoped the publication this will trigger a debate about what it means and takes to represent rural communities in 2024.

James Blake, Chair of ACRE said,

“We know from our experience of managing recent grant funds for village halls that even a modest amount of government investment targeted at rural communities can spur on some impressive initiatives that respond to local needs. So, we hope the next government will recognise the value of proactively rural proofing policy so that even more opportunities are afforded to the people who live and work there, whether that be investing in services, infrastructure and affordable housing, or backing projects that contribute to Net Zero. We stand ready to help those in Westminster to ensure that no rural community is left behind.”

Kerry Booth, Chief Executive, Rural Services Network:

We at the Rural Services Network wholeheartedly welcome the campaign by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) to ensure that rural communities are not left behind. The challenges faced by rural residents are significant, from inadequate public services and infrastructure to unaffordable housing and hidden poverty. ACRE’s call for a new statutory advisory body to appraise the impact of government policies on rural areas is particularly timely and aligns closely with our own goals under the Winning the Rural Vote campaign. We are keen to collaborate with ACRE to explore ways in which our advocacy efforts can be synergised to ensure that the next government takes decisive action to support and invest in our rural communities. Together, we can create a more equitable future for the 9.7 million people living in the English countryside.


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