Growth is priority, says government

Stimulating economic growth is the top priority for the government, MPs have been told.

"We want to see rural areas contributing to and benefitting from that growth," said DEFRA minister Richard Benyon.

"We are working to improve superfast broadband and mobile infrastructure in rural communities, piloting Rural Growth Networks to test different ways of helping businesses stimulate economic growth in rural areas, while boosting key sectors such as tourism.

"We are also increasing export potential and unblocking barriers to growth by removing red tape."

Mr Benyon was responding to a parliamentary question on Thursday (16 May) from Tory MP Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood).

Mr Ollerenshaw had ask what policies the government was putting in place to encourage growth in the rural economy.

The question came as the latest Rural Economy Index suggested that the countryside was spiralling towards recession.

DEFRA says it wants rural areas to contribute to and benefit from economic growth, even though they face particular challenges.

Obstacles to growth include slower broadband connections in many rural areas.

The government has set up five pilots in rural areas, designed to help businesses overcome barriers to economic growth.

It is also building a broadband and mobile network it says will help the rural economy.

The government is doing this through the £530m Rural Broadband Programme (UK-wide) and a £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (in England).

It is also working to improve mobile coverage in areas where it is poor or non-existent through a UK-wide £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project

The department has also launched £25 million fund aimed at encouraging tourism to the countryside.


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