Rural Economy Spotlight - September 2017

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network highlighting a selection of current rural economic development news, issues and opportunities

Autumn Budget date confirmed

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has announced that the government will publish its Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22 November 2017.

The Autumn Budget sets out the government’s plans for the economy based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The government has stated that “Following the Chancellor’s announcement at Autumn Statement 2016, there will now only be one fiscal event in each year, held in the autumn. From 2018 there will be a Spring Statement, responding to the forecast from the OBR, but no major fiscal event.”

Rural Conference 2017 presentations available

Once again, this year’s national Rural Conference took place at the University Of Gloucestershire’s Park Campus in Cheltenham at the start of September.

From measuring the impact of rural economic development to understanding Food Enterprise Zones and the ongoing changes to local government finance, the conference was packed with useful information and interesting discussions.

If you missed the conference you can take a look at all the presentations via this link.

City focussed Industrial Strategy unlikely to be successful

Leaders of England’s largest councils have called on government to unleash the potential of the country’s economic ‘sleeping giants’ and devolve public spending and tax raising powers to rural areas.

A new report from world-leading economists Oxford Economics indicates the country’s growth is set to slow to under 2% each year over the next decade due to Brexit, but they argue devolving fiscal powers to England’s county authorities, who represent half of the nation’s population, could re-balance the economy, make a success of the Industrial Strategy, and help England cope better with any Brexit aftershocks.

The report, commissioned by the County Councils’ Network (CCN), provides an evidence base to help understand the structure of the county economies, collectively and individually, and especially to inform the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The overriding conclusion from this independent study is that county economies need to have greater prominence within the government strategy if an inclusive approach to economic growth is to be achieved.

In the words of Oxford Economics, an industrial strategy which is just big-city policy ‘is unlikely to be effective’ and the UK economy’s post-Brexit fortunes are dependent on how well we ‘address the challenges and opportunities associated with county economies’.

You can read the report via this link.

Superfast Broadband Programme evaluation

Broadband Delivery UK of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport are currently refining the ‘Theory of Change’ for the superfast broadband programme. The Theory of Change will outline all the things that the programme is doing, the ultimate impacts that it aims to have, and different outcomes that contribute to those impacts. This is intended to provide an organising framework for the evaluation of the programme, ensuring that evidence is gathered about the full range of outcomes and impacts.

As part of this work, a workshop is being held later this month at which a range of organisations, including RSN, will be represented. The workshop will discuss the potential benefits (and disbenefits) of Superfast Broadband, and how these might be realised. BDUK are keen to think through what success would look like for the programme in terms of its impact on consumers, families and communities.

If you have any observations on what success for the superfast broadband programme should look like, please forward these to Andy Dean.

Brexit: next steps of UK’s withdrawal from the EU

You can read Parliament’s analysis of how leaving the EU will affect different policy areas in the UK via this link. This also contains up to date briefings on negotiations, a Brexit glossary and a summary of recent news on exiting the EU from across the Parliament.

100% business rates retention pilots 2018 to 2019

The government has published a prospectus inviting local authorities to submit proposals to pilot 100% business rates retention in 2018 to 2019. The prospectus sets out the application process and the criteria on which applications will be assessed. Proposals for new pilots must be submitted by 27 October 2017.

The prospectus invites authorities in England to apply for 100% business rates retention pilot status, and outlines key information including the criteria against which the government will be assessing applications.

You can read more here.

The future of funding currently sourced from the EU

The Local Government Association (LGA) has published a discussion document concerning the potential shape of funds currently sourced from the EU in the post Brexit world.

This document presents in-depth analysis of a number of options which aim to inform the design and delivery of the ‘UK Shared Prosperity Fund.’ The first part of this report covers the LGA’s work to date; this includes a summary of the LGA’s basic principles for successor arrangements and an analysis of LGA independent research into potential funding scenarios. The second part of the report presents in-depth analysis of three options, which aim to inform the design and delivery of successor arrangements.

You can read the report here.

New Rural Economic Strategy focuses on river catchment

Reflecting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) catchment-based approach, Guilford Borough Council’s strategy for the Wey Valley has been produced in partnership with Waverley Borough Council upstream and Woking Borough Council downstream.

The Rural Economic Strategy has been designed “to maintain, develop and preserve the Surrey countryside as the working landscape it has been throughout human history.” The Strategy has five strategic priorities:

  • Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities
  • Infrastructure for Enterprise
  • Landscape Management and Countryside Vision
  • Green Space, Health and Wellbeing for Better Quality of Life
  • Energy Policy, Generation, Storage and Supply

You can access a copy of the Strategy via this link.

Digital skills in the UK

The House of Lords Library has produced a Briefing Paper about the importance of digital understanding at all levels of society. It provides an overview of what is meant by ‘digital skills’ and surveys recent literature on access to, and use of, the internet across society. It then considers digital skills in relation to the economy and sets out key proposals contained in the Government’s UK Digital Strategy 2017. It concludes with an exploration of the term ‘digital understanding’ and highlights recent Ofcom findings on adults’ media use and attitudes.

You can access a copy of the report here.

2017 Business Festival set for end of October

The 2017 Leicester Business Festival takes place from 23 October to 3 November showcasing the best of business from across Leicester and Leicestershire.

?Aimed at everyone from sole traders to multinationals, LBF aims to bring together influencers and innovators and offers an exciting mix of events packaged together in a busy and exciting fortnight.

?130 events will be packed in ranging from mobile film academies, marketing and funding for growth to business growth through various forms of social media, nurturing enterprise in young people and consultation on the Strategic Economic Plan for the area.

Included in the Festival is an event aimed at farmers organised by Leicestershire County Council in partnership with the NFU and Andrew Granger and Co Ltd entitled ‘Getting agriculture ready for Brexit.’

To find out more follow this link.

New Heat Networks guidance published

Guidance and information about support available for developing heat networks is now available on online from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

A heat network – sometimes called district heating – is a distribution system of insulated pipes that takes heat from a central source and delivers it to a number of domestic or non-domestic buildings. The heat source might be a facility that provides a dedicated supply to the heat network, such as a combined heat and power plant; or heat recovered from industry and urban infrastructure, canals and rivers, or energy from waste plants.

It is estimated that around 18% of UK heat will need to come from heat networks by 2050 if the UK is to meet its carbon targets cost effectively.

You can read more about heat networks and the support available via this link.

Analysis of the latest economic indicators

The House of Commons Library has produced its September 2017 analysis of the latest UK and international economic indicators.

“As summer fades away in the rear view mirror, we take this opportunity to summarise the economy’s journey over the past few months. GDP growth has slowed this year, as consumers are squeezed by higher inflation. The recent upward trend in consumer price inflation, however, appears to have come to an end in recent months. Latest estimates of productivity show that its decade-long poor performance continues. This remains a significant hurdle to future growth prospects and living standards.”

You can read the more via this link.

Government consults on design of Broadband USO

The Digital Economy Act 2017 which received Royal Assent in April, enabled the creation of a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving every household and business the right to request a broadband connection at a minimum speed of at least 10Mbps, up to a reasonable cost threshold - no matter where they live or work. Following this, the Government is now consulting on the specific design of the USO which would be set in secondary legislation.

The consultation covers a number of interrelated design issues - the minimum specification, the technologies and providers that can deliver this, affordability, how it is funded and minimising market distortion. It also considers the review of the USO to ensure that it remains relevant over time.

This consultation closes on 9 October 2017. You can read more here.

Dorset Business Day 2017 date announced

North Dorset Business Day 2017 will take place on Friday 17 November. This free “Business to Business” event is targeted at all businesses across Dorset and takes place at the Exchange, Sturminster Newton.

The event will include guest speakers, free workshops, exhibition stands, Business Advice Services (including local authority departments) and funding opportunities.

For further information contact Susan Sullivan, Economic Development Officer, on 0782 5088982

Coastal Communities Fund round 5 confirmed

Towns and cities along Britain’s coastline are set to benefit from thousands of new jobs and millions of pounds more in visitor spending after the government announced the next round of the Coastal Communities Fund on 4 September.

Coastal Communities Minister Jake Berry confirmed that the fifth round of funding for 2019 to 2021 will provide at least £40 million to help coastal areas in England further transform their economies and boost jobs in their local area. It will be open for applications in early 2018.

The government state that they have already provided £170 million for 278 projects around the country since the Coastal Communities Fund was launched in 2012. This has resulted in 2 million more people visiting the coast and spending an additional £171 million.

You can read more here.

Prince’s Countryside Fund open until 5 October

Charities and social enterprises in rural communities can now apply for vital grants of up to £50,000, to support projects that will improve the prospects and viability of family farm businesses, or that will drive economic vibrancy and sustain rural areas. Up to £600,000 of grant funding is available in this round.

Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “Farmers and rural businesses continue to be faced huge challenges, so the support offered by the Fund is needed more than ever. Many of our grants aim to support projects that help farmers improve their skills and confidence, whether they are new entrants to the industry or run established businesses.

“We have also seen the devastating effect that the closure of a shop or pub can have to village life, removing both vital amenities and places for social interaction. Our grants act as a reminder that we must prioritise and support businesses in the countryside to ensure we maintain a thriving and sustainable future for the UK’s rural areas.”

To read more follow this link.

Statistical digest of rural England published

Official statistics concerning rural England are published regularly by Defra. The latest August 2017 edition of the “Statistical Digest of Rural England” contains a wide range of useful statistics and is available via this link. These cover:

  • Rural population & migration
  • Rural Economy
  • Rural living

Defra’s June 2017 “Rural Economic Bulletin” comparing high level economic indicators across rural and urban England has also been published and is available via this link. The four indicators currently used are:

  • claimant count – proportion of working age population claiming unemployment benefits
  • economic activity – proportion of economically active population unemployed and proportion of working age population in employment
  • redundancies – number of redundancies per 1,000 workers
  • house prices - average house prices and annual percent change

Community Branch Fund open for Post Offices

The £20m Community Branch Fund – for Post Offices with no other suitable retailer within half a mile – is now open for applications. These Post Office branches or Outreach and Satellite services play a particularly vital role in the local community. The Community Branch Fund offers investment for sub-postmasters to support the growth of their Post Office business and help to underpin the long term viability of their business.

The fund can be used for a wide range of improvements such as changing the branch format to open plan, new signage, or gearing up for new services such as Click & Collect. Funding is also available for Outreach and Satellite services.

Most applications are expected to be below £10,000(or below £2,000 for Outreach or Satellite Services). The fund will only be open whilst there is still money available. It is anticipated that the fund will not run beyond March 2018.

You can find out more via this link.

Tailored local information for Neighbourhood Planning available

A successful neighbourhood plan must be based on evidence and an understanding of the place they relate to. Communities need to gather a range of evidence and local knowledge before writing their plan. RSN has collated a selection of evidence, which may be useful to communities in starting to shape their evidence base.  This is tailored to each local authority area and is available via this link.

A monthly pocket databank from the Treasury

The 'Pocket databank' is a monthly HM Treasury statistical publication, containing major economic indicators and series for both domestic and international economies.  The databank, designed to be a quick and concise reference source, can be accessed here.

All Party Parliamentary Group – influence in Westminster

The Rural Services APPG supported by RSN provides an excellent opportunity to put issues of the moment in front of MPs in the heart of Westminster and to seek to influence national debate.  If you have any views on key topics which should be covered in future APPGs please contact Andy Dean.

Chambers of Trade – keep calm and sign up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.  We have a number of Chambers of Trade, Commerce and Local Business Networks who are members of RSN and currently receive our bulletins.  If there is a business organisation in your area who you think would find our bulletins useful, please pass this bulletin onto them and ask them to contact Andy Dean with their contact details so we can ensure they are included in future distributions.

Future editions of the Rural Economy Spotlight

The next edition of this bulletin will be distributed in December 2017.  If you have any suggestions as to future content or would like to submit a short article for inclusion please contact Andy Dean.


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