MPs debate support for rural areas

GOVERNMENT support for rural communities is to be debated by MPs.

The Westminister Hall debate is scheduled for 11am–12.30pm on Tuesday (17 April).

It will be led by Simon Hart, Tory MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

A passionate campaigner, Mr Hart was previously chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, Europe's largest rural affairs lobby group.

Recent causes he has championed include rural broadband, rural banking and emergency services in the countryside.

Mr Hart was among a group of rural MPs who met Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street earlier this year to press the case for the countryside.

The cross-party delegation told Mr Cameron that rural communities were being consistently disadvantaged across the UK.

Rural areas receive less funding per capita, have fewer services, and pay higher taxes, the Prime Minister was told.

The cross-party group also discussed the need for funding for rural fire services, schools and colleges, and transport.

The delegation was led by Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services.

The secretariat for the all-party parliamentary group is provided by the Rural Services Network.

People in rural areas earn less, on average, than those in cities, said Mr Stuart.

Rural residents £100 more council tax each yet saw government grants to urban areas 50% higher than those in the countryside.

Yet the cost of delivering services in sparse, rural areas is higher than in cities.

The Prime Minister said he was keen to work with the group on innovative solutions to rural problems – especially the benefits of sharing facilities.

Mr Cameron said his own constituency of Witney in Oxfordshire was the second-most sparsely populated in south-east England.

He asked the group to suggest more measures to support rural areas over the coming months.


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