Rural Related Politics - An RSN weekly review

16 March 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 
(9 March -  15 March)
The Budget

On Wednesday, the Chancellor delivered the new Budget. He promised a £3,000 cash grant per business for any firm that is currently eligible for the small business rates relief, and stated that business rates will be abolished this year for firms with a rateable value below £51,000. He added that the ‘extraordinary measures’ outlined in the Budget due to coronavirus represent £7 billion to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people, and he will also be setting aside a £5 billion emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services. Other key announcements include:

  • Transport: The Government will spend £500 million to support the roll-out of rapid charging hubs, so that drivers of electric cars are never more than 30 miles away from one, as well as investments of £900 million in nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles.
  • Education and Schooling: Every region in the country will get funding for specialist maths schools and there will be £250,000 per secondary school for arts activities. The Government will spend £1.5 billion over five years to improve the quality of the further education estate. The Chancellor confirmed that he will remove VAT on digital publications.
  • Broadband: The Government will spend £5 billion to get gigabit-capable broadband into the hardest to reach places and £510 million of new investment into the shared rural mobile phone network.
  • Devolution and Local Government: The Government will provide an extra £640 million for Scotland, £360 million for Wales, and £210 million for Northern Ireland. Additionally, the Chancellor announced that the new West Yorkshire Mayor will, along with seven other metro mayors, get a new, London-style funding settlements, worth £4.2 billion.
  • Roads:  The Chancellor confirmed £2.5 billion in funding, or a £500 million bonus each year for the next five years, to eradicate potholes, as well as investment in strategic roads and motorways local roads, with will total £27 billion of spending on tarmac.
  • Housing: The Chancellor announced the following policies:
  • To expand the affordable homes programme by £12.2 billion;
  • Interest rates on lending for social housing to be cut by one percentage point;
  • The Government will spend £650 million tackling rough sleeping, funding 6,000 new places for rough sleepers, which will be funded by the promised stamp duty surcharge on non-UK residents, worth 2 per cent, coming in to effect from April 2021;
  • There will be a new £400 million fund for mayors to build on Brownfield sites.
  • NHS: The Chancellor announced over £6 billion of new funding in this Parliament to support the NHS, which will deliver 50,000 more nurses, 50 million more GP surgery appointments and support the work starting on 40 new hospitals. The immigration health surcharge will rise to £620, although there will be a discount for children.
Written Questions

On Wednesday 11th March, Kit Malthouse (Con) answered a question from Alicia Kearns (Lab) on what recent assessment the Department has made of the potential merits of prioritising police resources on tackling organised crime in rural areas. He stated that it is the responsibility of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables to ensure that the police priorities reflect those of their communities and that resources are deployed accordingly.

Also on Wednesday, Rebecca Pow (Con) answered a question from Jackie Doyle-Price (Con) on what assessment the Government has made of the potential effect the proposed ban on burning coal in domestic settings on fuel poverty. Pow said the Government want to see a move from bituminous coal to less polluting fuels in the domestic setting. They will facilitate this transition by only allowing the sale of smokeless coal (or anthracite) and low sulphur manufactured solid fuels for the purpose of domestic combustion.

Rachel Maclean (Con) answered a question from Derek Thomas (Con) on what steps the Government is taking to increase access to charging points for electric vehicles in rural areas. Maclean said the Government will invest an additional £1 billion in charging infrastructure, ensuring that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid charging station. Maclean said that the Government is already investing nearly £1.5 billion‎ between April 2015 and March 2021 to support the transition to zero emission motoring and have put in place a range of grant schemes to support the installation of charging infrastructure that are available in any urban or rural areas across the UK.

Jeremy Hunt (Con) asked what assessment the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made of the implications of the recommendation that NHS England should consider extending the review of requirements to sustain safe provision to other services working in remote and rural environments. On Wednesday, Helen Whately (Con) answered that in the 2016/17 clinical commissioning group allocations, NHS England made a change to the allocation funding formulae for remoteness. In part, this funding recognises that services in remote areas, including maternity services, have unavoidably higher costs because the level of activity is too low for services to operate. Furthermore the Government knows that the challenges faced by services in remote areas are broader than funding which is why it  committed in the NHS Long Term Plan to develop new operating models for rural hospitals, as well as to reduce geographical and specialty imbalances in medical posts. As part of this, NHS England and NHS Improvement is working with 35 smaller acute hospitals and local systems leaders to identify and accelerate the spread of new delivery models through peer learning and in partnership with national stakeholders, including the Care Quality Commission and Royal Colleges.

On Thursday 12th March, during the Business Statement, Andrew Jones MP (Con) asked for a debate about changes to cash access and cash use.

On Friday 13th March, during a reading of the British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill in the Commons, Kevin Hollinrake (Con) argued for devolution right across Yorkshire, Leeds and Bradford, but also York and North Yorkshire - and welcomed the Bill and the Government’s agenda to level up through the distribution of jobs and facilities throughout the UK.


This week in politics 
(16 March -  22 March)
  • On Monday 16th March, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee will host an oral evidence session on Progress on Devolution in England. Witnesses include:
    • Dr John Stanton, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of London
    • Professor Francesca Gains, Professor of Public Policy, University of Manchester
    • Professor Colin Copus, Emeritus Professor in Local Politics, De Montfort University

The session will examine the effectiveness of current devolution deals in England, including the role of elected mayors and the quality of scrutiny and the impact they have in their regions. It will also look at broader issues of how devolution deals can be designed to boost cities, towns and rural areas, and whether the current practice of bespoke deals is enabling change at the right rate.

  • On Tuesday 17th March, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rail will host an event: ‘Re-opening Rail Lines’ with guests Darren Shirley and David Shirres from Rail Engineer and IMechE.
  • On Wednesday 18th March, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on Organised Crime in Rural Areas with Alicia Kearns MP, and also a debate on Bank Branch Closures with Owen Thompson MP.
  • There will also be oral questions in the House of Lords Main Chamber, on assisting universities and further education colleges to address issues with higher education provision in rural and coastal areas with Lord Bassam of Brighton.
  • Elsewhere, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Devolution will also meet.
  • On Thursday 19th March, in the Commons there will be oral questions with Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions).

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