Coronavirus: ‘Rural areas in danger of being left behind’

Farm groups want the government to commit more funding to rural areas to support England’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

A new report, Rebuilding Rural: Growing Back Better, called on the government to help rural communities access better jobs, as well as education and health services.

It warned some areas dependent on tourism and seasonal work are at risk of being left further behind amid the pandemic, and that rural parts of the country “have long faced the challenges of sparsity, remoteness, poor connectivity and a history of unequal funding and patchy service delivery”.

The Rural Coalition

  • Action with Communities in Rural England
  • CPRE, the countryside charity
  • Country Land and Business Association
  • The Arthur Rank Centre
  • National Association of Local Councils
  • National Centre for Rural Health and Care
  • National Farmers’ Union
  • National Housing Federation
  • Plunkett Foundation
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • Royal Town Planning Institute
  • Rural Services Network
  • Town and Country Planning Association

See also: Winter support package to cut Bounce Back Loan repayments

The coalition, which includes the NFU and the Country Land and Business Association, said it wanted to see more investment in skills, retraining and digital infrastructure, to attract new businesses to rural areas and increase economic diversity.

Margaret Clark, chairman of the Rural Coalition, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus a number of rural vulnerabilities.

“How we plan for building back better offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address these issues, but also to unlock the potential of rural areas to make a significant contribution to the nation’s economic recovery and ensure no one is left behind.”

On Tuesday (22 September), prime minister Boris Johnson announced new coronavirus restrictions in England and Wales that include a 10pm curfew for pubs and, in Scotland, a ban on households mixing.

Mr Johnson said the government would go further if the measures were ignored and warned the country was in for an “unquestionably difficult winter”.

On Thursday (24 September), chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new Job Support Scheme, starting in November, to replace the furlough scheme.

This will see employees have to return to work for at least 33% of their hours and businesses pay at least 33% of their wages.

For the remaining hours not worked, the government and the employer will split the cost.

See more