Tuesday, 10 September 2013 08:02

Buy British, minister urges councils

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Buy British, minister urges councils

DEFRA secretary Owen Paterson has urged local authorities and other service providers to source more food locally.

Mr Paterson was speaking at the Local Government Association's annual Rural Conference, held in Stratford-Upon-Avon on Wednesday (4 September).

"One of the most important sectors of the rural economy is food and drink," he said. "This sector supports 3.7 million jobs and contributes nearly £90 billion a year to the UK economy."

The government was working hard to make sure that food and drink businesses had a wide range of opportunities to expand, Mr Paterson told conference delegates.

"We're now looking at how we can work with the industry to make it easier for businesses to grow in the UK market," he said.

But businesses alone wouldn't make a big enough impact.

"We in government need to play our part," said Mr Paterson. "The government has set public procurement standards for food through the Government Buying Standard."

He added: "I believe that local government has a huge part to play in supporting, and benefitting from, this agenda."

The Cornwall Food Programme, which supplies the Royal Cornwall Hospital as well as St Michaels and the West of Cornwall Hospital, was a great example, said Mr Paterson.

"They have increased the amount of fresh, local food they use. This has boosted the local economy, reduced environmental impacts and improved the quality.

"These improvements have been made with no additional cost. As we seek to spread best practice across the country, I'd love to hear from you of any similar examples.

"Imagine the impact if every school, care home and leisure centre were buying from their local area.

"There are some amazing opportunities available to businesses in all sectors of the rural economy. It's our job in government to make sure that businesses can take advantage of them."

That was why the government had set up the £60 million Rural Economy Grant – money Mr Paterson said was supporting a range of businesses and activities.

The government had also established five Rural Growth Network pilots. They were expected to create up to 3,000 new jobs and support up to 700 new businesses.

"These pilots are progressing well. They are tackling local barriers such as a shortage of work premises, slow internet connectivity and fragmented business networks."

The Rural Development Programme to date has invested over £400m in projects to grow the rural economy. Completed projects had created over 8500 new jobs and safeguarded a further 9700.

The full speech can be seen here.

People in this conversation

  • Guest (Jane Wright)

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    Perhaps local authorities will do this when DEFRA lead the way. They are not shining examples on this front.
    In a previous job I did work to ensure our catering was sourced locally where possible, but local is not always possible under EU rules. Seasonal, ethical and healthy were our primary concerns.

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