Wednesday, 31 December 2014 22:08

Questions over 'rural growth' claims

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Questions over 'rural growth' claims

MORE opportunities could increase rural employment in England by as much as 6%, the government has claimed.

DEFRA secretary Liz Truss said productivity could grow faster in the countryside than urban areas over the next decade.

But the Labour Party responded by accusing the coalition government of promising "jam tomorrow" after failing the countryside and its communities for almost five years.

Ms Truss said a new DEFRA analysis showed a rise in rural jobs could be fuelled by high-tech boost from faster broadband and better transport links.

Increased connectivity, spread of innovation, growth in knowledge-based industries and changes in working patterns were expected to help rural areas catch up with urban areas.

This was expected to deliver higher wages and output of rural areas could potentially increase by around an extra £35 billion.

Increased economic rural opportunities could increase rural employment in England by 6% - or more than 300,000 jobs.

Ms Truss said: "This is a truly exciting time for rural communities with the countryside set to become even more of an economic powerhouse for the UK, building our economic security."

The government's investment in broadband and transport links was unlocking "huge potential for growth in the countryside where entrepreneurial activity is outstripping many parts of the UK".

Ms Truss also said rural communities were "better connected now than ever before – ultimately that means greater opportunities, more jobs and improved wages and a better future."

The DEFRA analysis shows that rural workers are currently 83% as productive as their urban counterparts.

But it suggests that rural productivity has the potential to grow faster than the average expected rate for the UK.

This would allow the countryside to gain ground on towns over the course of a decade.

But shadow Defra secretary Huw Irranca-Davies said the report was based on promises that had not yet been fulfilled. The government had presided over a rural cost of living crisis, he added.

"The report is based on plans that have yet to be delivered," said Mr Irranca-Davies.

He added: "Having failed the countryside on broadband and infrastructure investment over the last four and a half years the Tories are promising jam tomorrow.

"The cost-of-living crisis is the real problem holding back rural Britain. Under this Tory-led government it costs £2800 more a year to live in the countryside than it does in a city.

"Only by tackling the cost-of-living crisis can we build a rural economy that works for ordinary people instead of just a privileged few.

"That is why the next Labour government will raise the minimum wage, ban exploitative zero hour contracts and abolish the bedroom tax."

The full DEFRA analysis can be downloaded here.

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