RSN Rural Economy Group Meeting - 27 January 2020

Notes of the Rural Economy Group 

Venue: The LGA, 18 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HZ
Date:    Monday, 27th of January 2020
Time:   11.00 am – 12.30 pm

- To download the agenda and papers associated for this meeting, click here
- To download a copy of  these minutes click here

1. Attendance & Apologies

Attendance:

Cllr Cecilia Motley RSN & Shropshire Council
Graham Biggs RSN
David Inman RSN
Charles Trotman Country Land and Business Association
Ian Cass Forum of Private Business
Chris Stanton Guildford Borough Council
Cllr Chris Mapey East Suffolk Council
Cllr Gerard Brewster Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Harry St John West Oxfordshire District Council
Cllr Kevin Dukes Bassetlaw District Council
Cllr Malcolm Leeding Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils
Cllr Mark Whittington Lincolnshire County Council
Cllr Mary Robinson Eden District Council
Cllr Michael Rickman Harborough District Council
Cllr Owen Bierley West Lindsey District Council
Cllr Peter Schwier Braintree District Council
Cllr Peter Stevens West Suffolk Council
Cllr Robert Heseltine North Yorkshire County Council
Cllr Stephen Clarke South Northamptonshire Council
Cllr Sue Tucker Scarborough Borough Council
Cllr Suzie Morley Mid Suffolk District Council
Cllr Trevor Thorne Northumberland County Council
Cllr Virginia Taylor Eden District Council
David Rodda Cornwall Council
Ellie Jason The Prince's Countryside Fund
Gary Taylor South Holland District Council
Jeremy Savage South Norfolk Council
Julia Raven South Northamptonshire Council
Karl Bassett Melton Borough Council
Ken Christy Northamptonshire ACRE
Mandie Berry North Somerset Council
Mandy Ramm Nottinghamshire County Council
Marina Di Salvatore West Lindsey District Council
Mark Winnington Staffordshire County Council
Melanie Sealey Devon County Council
Michael Hewitt Cherwell District Council
Neil Irving North Yorkshire County Council
Nilesh Joshi National Federation of Subpostmasters
Shalon Perkins North Lincolnshire Council
Toby Matthews Norfolk County Council
Vinia Abesamis Herefordshire Council

Apologies:

Adrian Welsh Mid Devon District Council
Alan Gray North Kesteven District Council
Alice Mason Wychavon District Council
Christine Marshall Breckland Council
Claire Saunders The Prince's Countryside Fund
Cllr Adam Paynter Cornwall Council
Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew Somerset and West Taunton Council
Cllr Daniel Cribbin Daventry District Council
Cllr David Ireton North Yorkshire County Council
Cllr Gill Heath Staffordshire County Council
Cllr Gwilym Butler Shropshire Council
Cllr James MacCleary Lewes District Council
Cllr Ken Pollock Worcestershire County Council
Cllr Louise Richardson Leicestershire County Council
Cllr Malcolm Brown Cornwall Council
Cllr Margaret Squires Mid Devon District Council
Cllr Oliver Hemsley Rutland County Council
Cllr Richard Sherras Ribble Valley Borough Council
Cllr Richard Wright North Kesteven District Council
Cllr Rupert Reichold East Northamptonshire Council
Cllr Sarah Butikofer North Norfolk District Council
Cllr Stephen Arnold Ryedale District Council
Cllr Sue Sanderson Cumbria County Council
Cllr Tim Oliver Surrey County Council
Cllr Zoe Nicholson Lewes District Council
Darren Henley Arts Council England
Dominie Dunbrook North Devon Council
Emily Kent Cornwall Council
Gary Powell Teignbridge District Council
Giles Hughes West Oxfordshire District Council
Helen Harris Leicestershire County Council
Ian Hunter Creative Rural Industries Consortium
James Tenant East Northamptonshire Council
Jenny Poole Cotswold District Council/West Oxfordshire District Council
John Birtwistle UK Bus - First Group
Julian German Cornwall Council
Liz Small North Yorkshire County Council
Lorraine Gore King's Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council
Mark Carroll Essex County Council
Mark Pople Daventry District Council
Melanie Burgoyne Chichester District Council
Paul Henry Suffolk County Council
Peter Sharp Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Council
Revd Richard Kirlew Sherborne Deanery Rural Chaplaincy
Sally Nelson North Devon Council
Sarah McMillan Northumberland County Council
Sean McGrath Lancashire County Council
Stacey Burlet Ryedale District Council
Tony Galloway Ryedale District Council
Tony Jefferson Stratford District Council
Toyubur Rahman Chichester District Council
Trevor Beattie South Downs National Park
2. Notes from the previous Rural Economy Sub-Group meeting held on the 24th of June 2019 were agreed as a correct record. (Attachment 1)
3. “It’s Time for a Rural Strategy” – progressing the campaign. (Attachment 2)

During the 13th of January 2020 RSN Executive meeting the future of “It’s Time for a Rural Strategy” campaign was discussed. The decisions of the Executive are set out in the attachment.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy supported the Call for a Rural Strategy. They noted the need for socio-economic functions to be integral to that and the desired outcomes. But Theresa May’s Government decided the position should be tackled by rural proofing not by a Government Strategy.

The current Minister Theresa Villiers has been approached but exiting position only acknowledged so far. Clearly, we need for the pressure on Government to continue. The All-Party Parliamentary Group will be recommended to have this item on their programme. The Regional Roadshows will continue. Next dates for these events are outlined below:

- 9th of March – Rural Strategy Roadshow & South East Regional Seminar –Chichester District Council;

- 19th of March – Rural Strategy Roadshow, Warwick – Warwick Business School, Warwick University;

- 23rd of March – South West Regional Seminar – East Devon District Council.

We need to look at new issues, like Climate Change, but also keep on top of Rural Service issues and look at the barriers around rural. Need to prove that rural can flourish if those barriers are removed. We need to continue work on Fair Funding, Devolution and Rural Housing issues as well.

RSN accept they must work with others and the Chair emphasised the need to ensure complementary co-ordination with similar campaigns led by other groups.

4. Local Industrial Strategies.

4.1 Presentation by Charles Trotman, CLA Senior Economic Adviser, RDPE External Working Group.How LEPs can maximise their contribution to UK Productivity by including rural business”. (Attachment 3)

- Download the presentation here

Charles totally agreed with Graham about the need for joint thinking. The CLA had direct links into Government. A common uniform message from all groups was important. The Industrial Strategy was still a very live document in his view, but he agreed the Grand Challenges therein did not fit well in the rural context. The rural productivity level was 8% less than urban. There was a need for policy measures for LEPs to take on the policies of rural proofing if that position was to change.

Key issues:

(a) Infrastructure

- A mobile network with shared masts.

- Approaches need to be developed to tackle lack of digital skills in the workplace. Support needs to be developed for rural firms in recruitment, development and retention of skilled staff. While most of the country is covered by digital broadband but take up as low as 50-55%. Digital skills are fundamental for opportunities to be taken up in the first place.

(b) Need for a common language about what rural entails and what rural opportunities are. LEPs need to be made to take up the rural challenge. Brexit issues remain. There is a need for regulatory alignment with the European Union and for appropriate labour levels. If migrant labour is to be lost there is a need in upskilling of local labour.

(c) Policy vacuum – in a lot of the 38 LEPs between the LEPs itself and the rural economy. Leicestershire have demonstrated how it is might be done. It is for other LEPs to show similar initiatives. EU rural funding will in CLA’s view, be rolled over until 2024. They want to see the same percentage of these funds being ringfenced.

(d) They are calling for Treasury to give rural their due percentage. Of the present £100 million pot. This would give £16 million of matching funds.

(e) Further Education colleges should be charged with providing the right courses to cover the right skills to replace the migrant labour leaving the country.

(f) Openreach are expanding their rural programme as they must make a commitment to rural areas for a fibre network in accordance with government policy.

(g) However, the way we leave will have to be negotiated to ensure this happens. This will be a challenge. A proper negotiation procedure has to be established.

(h) Graham Biggs outlined the problems that lack of statistical data down to a local level to allow the LEPs to fully consider the rural position.

(i) CLA have some of these down to District Council level but the information has been provided by DEFRA on a confidential base.

(j) It was felt that some LEPs might be making some positive noises, but this was not necessarily being taken forward in delivery terms – there was a need for LEPs to be required to rural proof their strategies and funding decisions.

4.2 Presentation by Ian Cass, Managing Director, Forum of Private Business “The Threat to Rural Pubs”. (Attachment 3 A)

- Download the presentation here

(a) 3,000 members in the UK.

(b) Government are poor with small business and with rural businesses. This needs to improve if full opportunities are to be grasped.

(c) The brewing structure now seen as an opportunity for non-brewers. They purchase pubs and look for unrealistic rents and also look for the pub to close so they can achieve housing land values.

(d) Pubs are not necessarily closing for lack of customers but because of the agendas of the landowners.

(e) What can be done: link and work with CAMRA; trying to get literature to tenants and to rural communities.

Document produced by RSN, CAMRA & Forum of Private Business will be going to Parliament. Looking for lightening of planning laws.

6 big firms now own most of the country’s 21,000 pubs. It is a real problem as a pub is very much at the heart of rural communities across England.

Meeting endorsed the campaign by Forum of Private Business and thanked Ian Cass for his presentation.

4.3 Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Local Industrial Strategy. (Attachment 4)
The document supplied by Helen Harris (Economic Growth Manager at Leicestershire County Council) was noted and supported.

4.4 RSN Chief Executive Graham Biggs to update members on the proposed work between the RSN and the Institute for Economic Development in “Rural Proofing” Local Industrial Strategies.

RSN working with IED to establish a matrix of data. The RSN’s initial assessment was that a lot of data was not available at a local enough level. Graham didn’t necessarily accept that District level was low enough.

The RSN were happy to work with CLA and DEFRA officers in unearthing all the appropriate data but remained concerned that there were currently significant data omissions.

Economic Development Officers would be consulted in due course.

5. “Land of Opportunity. England’s Rural Periphery”. (Attachment 5)

RSN welcomed the report from NLGN in collaboration with Cornwall Council and its call for a Rural Commission. RSN are happy to sign up to 90% of it but do have outstanding queries outlined below:

(a) Exclusion of counties based on a town over 123,000 could be slightly misleading.

(b) Discussion was necessary as there was a need to bring lobbying activity together as far as possible to prevent separate reports being used as an excuse by government to not progress any overall rural strategy.

(c) Be good to have discussions.

(d) Individual member authorities would obviously take whatever lead they felt desirable but there was a need for national campaigns to dovetail as far as possible.

(e) AOB

Agriculture Bill

RSN would circulate the LGA’s paper when it became available. Concerns were expressed about some of the long-term implications to the wider economy.

It was felt the LEPs should be inputting into this more than they were.

6. Any other business.

The next meeting date of this group will be Monday 1st of June 2020.

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