The Rural Services Network then calls upon an incoming Government to:
- Recognise the important contribution that rural areas make to the nation’s economic wellbeing and reflect this explicitly in its growth policies.
- Insist that all Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) whose geographies include rural communities and rural based businesses are clear how their Strategic Economic Plans will benefit them. This should apply to LEPs whose areas are mainly urban, as well as to those in more obviously rural locations.
- Have LEPs appoint someone to their Boards with a clear role to act as a rural champion. When monitoring the impacts of their programmes, LEPs should measure and publish figures about the impacts on their rural communities and businesses.
- Ensure that Growth Fund support managed by LEPs is available to micro and small businesses, and does not overlook rural by dint of focussing on larger firms.
- Ensure that it learns and promotes lessons from the Rural Growth Pilots, which have been funded by Defra, and implement the findings from their ongoing evaluation.
- Fund local authorities to be part of the solution helping deliver Jobcentre Plus services locally in those rural places where this (very urban based) service to help people back into employment is not otherwise easy to physically access.
- Continue its funding for the ‘Wheels to Work’ scheme coordinator posts. This is a simple and cheap way to support local projects that predominantly help young people in rural areas with transport to access training and employment opportunities. In many cases older age groups could usefully be eligible to benefit from these projects.
- Act upon the recent report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which identified geographic gaps in university/HE provision in rural areas and which highlighted the key role the sector plays in workforce skills and economic growth.
- Maintain funding support for the specialist colleges that are central to the supply of skilled personnel ready to enter the agricultural and land-based sector.
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