Thursday, 27 September 2012 19:35

Warning of 'two-speed' rural economy

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Warning of 'two-speed' rural economy

BRITAIN faces a two-speed rural economy unless the government helps rural communities determine their own future, a report has warned.

Rural areas need to be given resources as well as responsibility, argues the document from the Carnegie UK Trust.

Developing rural economies could boost the economy but the process needs to be carefully managed to avoid a 'two-speed' rural society, it says.

The study, Future Directions in Rural Development, highlights the need for better networking and resource allocation by government to allow rural communities to determine their own future.

Written by Professor Mark Shucksmith of Newcastle University, a recognised expert on rural issues, the report reaches two conclusions:

First, rural areas benefit most from locally-tailored solutions which reflect conditions, capacity and capabilities within and around them.

But local action is most effective when it follows a networked model, bringing together the local with national and international resources and support systems.

Secondly, local action on its own is insufficient to overcome wider forces affecting rural change.

Intervention is required to address persistent patterns of structural differentiation – such as the north-south divide in England or east-west contrasts in Ireland.

Professor Shucksmith said rural communities had unequal capacities to adapt and thrive in times of rapid, transformational change.

"It is very clear that unless there is capacity-building at community level, inequalities will grow between rural areas," he warned.

The government's role was crucial since only it could provide capacity-building on the scale required and in a systematic way.

"Government investment in the capacity of local communities should be a priority, even in constrained financial times," said Professor Shucksmith.

Governments were often spatially blind to the territorial impacts of their policies and decisions.

But in a step forward, the UK Government had announced that it will issue revised guidance on rural proofing in autumn 2012, Professor Shucksmith added.

Tentative plans for an English Rural Parliament and more concrete proposals in Scotland for a Rural Parliament, may provide new answers to the question of how to rural-proof government policy.

"Rural economies have much to offer in rebuilding and rebalancing UK economies hard hit by the downturn, but this potential will only be realised and spatial inequalities reduced if governments and others support local action.

"Governments at all levels should make this a priority area for rural development in the next five years."

Carnegie UK Trust chief executive Martyn Evans said passing power and responsibility to local communities without the necessary resources risked creating a 'two-speed' rural economy.

This was because some communities would rise to the challenge but others would not.

Some rural communities had the skills, assets, networks and institutional capacity to compete strongly. But those without may struggle to catch up.

Struggling rural communities risked losing services and infrastructure – and becoming less able to contribute to rebalancing and renewing the economy, said Mr Evans.

"We have always been optimistic about the future of rural communities and feel recognising and supporting rural areas as potential economic powerhouses in their own right, not merely as recipients of urban growth, is the right approach to take.

"However, Professor Shucksmith presents compelling evidence that it won't happen on its own. Rural communities will require support if they are to reach their potential."

"One of the most significant changes since 2007 is the role of technology and, in particular, the essential nature of broadband to facilitate business and community in the 21st century."

The full report can be found on the Carnegie UK Trust website.

  • No comments found

Leave your comments

0 / 500 Character restriction
Your text should be in between 10-500 characters
terms and condition.