The Rural Services Network calls upon an incoming Government to:
- Recommit to the principle of rural proofing by Whitehall and its delivery agencies, to ensure a fair outcome for rural communities. Make clear that that commitment comes from the top and has the backing of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
- Apply rural proofing rigorously to its post-2015 programme for Government. In particular, to think carefully about the targeting of needs-based policies to ensure they reach rural communities.
- Make sure that any proposals drawn up to devolve powers away from the centre within England give as much consideration to rural areas as they do to large cities or city-regions.
- Ensure that Defra’s Rural Communities Policy Unit (or any future equivalent) is given both the clout and resources to work across Whitehall, supporting other departments with their rural proofing. Its co-ordination and promotional role will be vital.
- Ensure that consultation during policy development includes rural stakeholder organisations (like the Rural Services Network and ACRE) and rural communities.
- Enforce better the system, whereby departments assess the likely rural impacts – among other impacts – of proposed policy developments in Impact Assessments. Their assessment should show the financial consequences for rural areas (relative to other types of area).
- Produce an annual report on its rural proofing work for scrutiny by the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee.
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