Wire up countryside, says CPRE

18 February 2000

Wire up countryside, says CPRE

By Alistair Driver

INSTALLING an IT kiosk in every village would allow the government to push ahead with radical plans to replace regional offices with Internet links to farmers, claims a leading charity for the protection of the countryside.

The proposal to “wire up the countryside” forms part of the Council for the Protection of Rural Englands submission to the government on how it should allocate rural funds.

As part of a proposed 800 million package, CPRE recommends the government spends 43m in each of the next three years to fit all of Englands 16,000 villages with 80,000 IT kiosks.

“The kiosks would help enable greater IT use among farmers,” said CPRE assistant director Tony Burton.

Increasing IT access is a central plank of internal proposals to “modernise” MAFF and make it “more appropriate to the needs of farmers today”.

The proposals to reduce the number of MAFF regional offices and cut staff by 1750 jobs, were described as “barmy” this week by Conservative MP Peter Luff.

The former chairman of the Commons Agriculture Select Committee said: “The proposals work on the basis that farmers can all use the internet to get advice, but how many have access to the net?”

He said the government is more interested in realising the capital of regional service centre sites than in providing services.

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