Labour publishes rural manifesto

The Labour Party has unveiled a rural manifesto outlining its policy pledges for the countryside.

It pledges that a Labour government will build a rural economy that works for working people and supports rural families and communities.

The rural manifesto includes a promise to build more affordable homes by strengthening requirements on developers to build affordable housing in rural areas.

It will reduce business rates for small businesses, which employ over two-thirds of the rural workforce.

The manifesto - A Better Plan For Rural Britain - was published on Tuesday (28 April).

A Labour government after the general election on 7 May will give rural communities more power over their own bus services, it says.

In a further pledge, the document says Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the next parliament in 2020.

It also says it will bring the off-grid energy sector under the remit of the regulator for the first time.

Many of these pledges are already included in Labour's main manifesto.

However a new pledge includes plans to introduce a new taskforce to tackle low pay and protect conditions for agricultural workers.

Labour says average wages are over £4500 lower a year in the countryside than those in urban areas and the gap has grown by £1000 since 2010.

It says developers have been allowed to end the provision of affordable housing on sites of fewer than 10 houses despite most rural housing being on small, private developer-led sites.

Similarly, it says soaring energy bills have an added burden in the countryside because many rural properties have no grid access, forcing them to use more expensive alternatives.

And it says annual transport costs are around £1000 higher in rural areas and less than half of those living in smaller rural settlements have access to a regular bus service.

Shadow Defra secretary Maria Eagle said: "Labour's better plan for rural Britain is based on building a rural economy that rewards hard work and shares prosperity.

"Only Labour has a plan to make our economy work for working people in all of parts of Britain – for those living in rural, coastal and market town communities as well as in cities."

Manifestos published by other political parties also pledge measures to benefit rural communities.

The Liberal Democrats published a "countryside charter" earlier in April.

A full Rural Services Network analysis of all the main party manifestos is available here


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