The Labour Party has launched a Rural England Policy Review as part of its drive to “be the party of the great British countryside”. The initiative is being led by shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary Luke Pollard MP.
The bid to attract rural voters highlights analysis findings that rural England could lose more than £255 million this year alone through the government’s phasing out of the former CAP Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) for farmers. It cites Rural Payments Agency figures quantifying the possible impact on rural economies, with as many as 9,500 agricultural jobs at risk. Labour says the government’s rushed withdrawal of the BPS could see many family farms pushed to the brink of closure. It has joined the NFU in calling for an urgent review of this policy.
Labour’s Rural England Policy Review, announced by leader Sir Kier Starmer at this year’s NFU conference, will take the form of a year-long listening exercise to explore what rural communities want and need from their elected representatives. The party will run a programme of roundtables and village hall meetings in rural areas across England to directly feed in views and ideas. It claims that ten years of Conservative Government has weakened the foundations of rural communities, as funding for transport and health services has been cut and community hubs such as village shops, post offices and pubs have been allowed to close.
Mr Pollard commented: “The Tories have taken rural England for granted over the past decade, cutting access to vital public services and allowing local businesses to go bust. Against this backdrop it can’t be right to recklessly take £255 million out of the rural economy this year alone. The Government needs to get a grip on this, review it, and provide the security that our rural communities desperately need as they recover and rebuild.
“Labour believes that the great British countryside has so much potential – but this research confirms that the Tories are holding it back. Our Rural England Policy Review will ensure that our next manifesto provides as much hope and opportunity to rural communities as it does to those living in towns and cities.”