DEFRA responds to rural criticism

MPs are due to publish the government’s response to a report criticising its policies for the countryside.

The response is due to be made public by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on Monday (28 November).

Published earlier this summer, the committee’s Rural Communities report scrutinised DEFRA and its Rural Communities Policy Unit.

“Much more needs to be done if DEFRA is to achieve its target of ‘fair, practical and affordable outcomes’ for rural residents, businesses and communities,” the report said.

The report highlighted issues such as slow broadband connections, poor mobile phone coverage and a lack of rural housing provision.

Rural businesses, schools and households had fallen behind their urban counterparts when it came to broadband access.

At the same time, the lack of mobile phone coverage in large parts of the countryside was unacceptable, said the report.

Meanwhile, parts of rural England were some of the most unaffordable places to live in the country.

DEFRA had made growing the rural economy its top priority, but other barriers to be overcome included improving rural businesses’ access to finance, said the document.

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