Rural Related Politics - An RSN weekly review

10 February 2020

Below is an RSN review of last week's rural related politics as well as a look forward to the week ahead:

Last week in politics 
(3 February -  9 February
  • In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank on Wednesday 5th, Culture Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan announced a consultation on whether failure to pay the licence fee should remain a criminal offense. Morgan also revealed plans for a new payment plan to allow people who struggle to pay the licence fee to spread out their payments evenly. Writing in the Daily Mail, Morgan argued that as we move into an increasingly digital age, many people consider it an ‘anachronism’ that someone can be imprisoned effectively for not paying for their TV licence, calling it ‘unfair and disproportionate’. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are welcoming views from both members of the public and organisations on whether the Government should proceed with the decriminalisation of TV licence evasion by replacing the criminal sanction with an alternative civil enforcement scheme.
  • On Thursday 6th, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government gave his written statement on the local government finance settlement 2020 to 2021. This year’s settlement delivers an increase in Core Spending Power from £46.2 billion in 2019-20 to £49.2 billion in 2020-21, a 4.4 percent increase. Within this, the Government has promised to continue to recognise the extra costs of delivering services in rural areas and propose to maintain last year’s Rural Services Delivery Grant of £81 million, which is the joint-highest paid to date. This will be?distributed?using?the same methodology as in 2019-20, which allocated funding?to the top quartile of local authorities on the ‘super-sparsity’ indicator.
Written Questions

Ms Angela Eagle (Lab) asked the Secretary of State for Transport on 29th January what steps he is taking to increase bus use in north east and north west constituencies. George Freeman (Con) answered on 3 February that the Government wants to see a longterm, sustained improvement in bus services. On 30th September last year, the Government announced that it will develop a national bus strategy for England, as well as a package of measures worth £220 million, to transform bus services across the country. Those measures include creating ‘Superbus’ networks with higher frequencies and lower fares, trialling demand-responsive transport solutions in rural and suburban areas, and creating an all-electric bus town or city.

Oral Questions

In a debate on the Agriculture Bill on 3rd February in the House of Commons, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers promised the grants and funding to improve productivity and help farm businesses become more resilient and successful as part of the Government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ the rural economy, for example by investing in green ‘agri-tech’. Many new MPs welcomed the new Agriculture Bill in their maiden speeches.

In a debate on local government finance in the Commons on 5th February, Luke Hall, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed that the Department are delivering what the Government believes to be ‘a simpler, up-to-date, evidence-based’ funding formula for the Fair Funding Review. Hall maintained the need for developing a needs-based formula that takes into account deprivation, rurality and other cost drivers. He said the rural services delivery grant will be maintained at its highest ever level of £81 million in the coming year, and will be distributed using the same methodology as last year, which distributes funding to the top quartile of local authorities on the super-sparsity indicator.

Lord Best (crossbench) contributed to a debate in the Lords on the Domestic Premises (Energy Performance) Bill on 7th February. He said the special circumstances of properties in rural areas, including fuel poverty due to lower average incomes and higher energy costs than in the country as a whole. He also argued for the need to rural-proof sustainable energy solutions, since rural settings are more accessible for solar energy and for ground-source heat pumps. He continued that renewable energy sources may be more expensive but should be easier to tap into than in high-density urban locations; their use will be of greater benefit in these rural communities.

This week in politics (10 February -  16 February)

On Monday 10th, in the House of Lords Main Chamber there will be an oral question about devolved powers to Yorkshire with Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Loneliness will also hold its AGM.

On Tuesday 11th, in the House of Commons Main Chamber there will be an oral question on the Government's intention to build 300,000 new homes each year for the next five years and simplify the planning system. Elsewhere, in the House of Lords, there will be an oral question on increasing the number of social homes for rent. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for High Street and Retail Regeneration, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coalfield Communities and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Great South West will meet.

On Wednesday 12th, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Skills and Employment will meet.

On Thursday 13th, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on apprenticeships in small and medium-sized enterprises with Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi. There will also be oral questions on enhancing the economics of former industrial and mining towns and villages in the North of England.


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