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Rural economy policy inputs: Revitalising Rural campaign launch and Defra roundtable contribution

 

Following the launch of the Institute of Economic Development (IED) and Rural Services Network (RSN) Rural Economy Toolkit in November to ensure that rural areas are better recognised in economic strategies and to enable the identification of new opportunities to drive forward rural initiatives, opportunities have emerged for the Institute to shape this agenda further through high-level input.

On 1st March, IED Executive Director Nigel Wilcock was called to give evidence at the Revitalising Rural: Realising the Vision campaign launch. Chaired by Lord Foster of Bath, Nigel featured as a witness in the Rural Economies session alongside Professor Jeremy Phillipson from the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, Richard Wainer, Policy and Public Affairs Director, Networks, at BT Group, and Jessie Hamshar, Director of Strategy and Engagement at Cornwall Council and Strategic Director at Britain’s Leading Edge. Others politicians present included Philip Dunne MP, Rob Butler MP and Lord Best.

Nigel said: “We were invited to speak on the major issues facing rural economies, so I was able to reflect on the learnings from our Rural Economy Toolkit work and discuss the idea of extending rural business rate relief, examining the opportunity for local enterprise agencies with support for a local credit union, and relaxing planning laws to allow redevelopment of previously build space so it would be easier to build on vacant farm space (where it is not green space). I also highlighted the plight of businesses which also provide housing for the owner – B&B, pub, café, corner shop, small hotel or craft workshop – there is probably no direct support and a hidden social and economic issue.”

This followed on from a pre-Christmas contribution to a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) rural economy roundtable. Chaired by Defra’s Director for Environment Strategy Tom Walker, the session’s title was ‘How do we properly engage with rural economies?’ “This left me asking myself a number of key questions: does incoming expenditure into rural areas rattle around small local businesses further (increased multiplier) as they trade with one another, so lost Covid affected income is felt more keenly?; isn’t increasing productivity the critical measure for employment: at full employment when a small percentage increase make a difference to national income; with high unemployment the largest national income gain is getting people back to work?; and does a productivity measure properly capture the activities of a rural economy – businesses and communities helping out one another with no economic transaction taking place?

Outputs from the Revitalising Rural: Realising the Vision and Defra sessions will be progressed in due course, and Nigel added: “It seems to me that rural economies are generally more resilient than data suggests, but at the same time Covid-19 may be quietly hollowing out local economies in a way that standard data does not immediately spot.”

-ENDS-

Contact: Phil Smith, Institute of Economic Development PR consultant, on 01778 218180 / 07866 436159 / phil@philsmithcommunications.co.uk.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Institute of Economic Development (IED) is the UK’s leading independent professional body representing economic development and regeneration practitioners. Established over 30 years ago, the IED’s key objective is to represent the interests of economic development practitioners and ensure their views are widely expressed and noted. The IED is committed to demonstrating the value of economic development work for local and regional communities; the pursuit of best practice in economic development and the attainment of the highest standards of professional conduct and competence.

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