Rural Related Politics - An RSN weekly review

20 July 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 
(13 July - 19 July)

On Tuesday 14th July, the Government published a paper on apprenticeship funding from August 2020, including details on of funding bands and the apprenticeship levy. The Government also published a policy statement setting out the Government’s long-term ambition to create a nation more resilient to future flood and coastal erosion risk. Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock MP (Con) announced that face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from 24th July 2020. During a debate on telecommunications, Mark Fletcher MP (Con) reiterated the Government’s manifesto commitment to improve mobile connectivity in rural constituencies, and asked the Minister to comment on how this decision will affect plans for improving rural networks. Oliver Dowden MP (Con), Secretary of State for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, responded that the announcement should not impact rural networks and that the department has made ‘huge advances’ by signing the deal for a single rural network.

On Wednesday 15th July, the Government published tax information about the reduced rate of VAT for hospitality, holiday accommodation, and attractions between 15th July 2020 and 12th January 2021. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee also launched a new inquiry to investigate how businesses and amenities in local areas can be supported through the economic challenges of the pandemic. An agriculture bill amendment has also been tabled by Lord Holmes of Richmond seeking to 'transform the lives' of rural communities by providing better broadband services, and imploring the Government to 'act now' to end the digital divide in the countryside. The amendment would require broadband provision and digital literacy within the section of the bill that deals with financial support for rural development.

On Thursday 16th July, the Department for Education set out a new scheme for higher education providers in England facing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP (Con) also confirmed allocations for individual councils from the £500 million of support for COVID-19-related spending pressures. The extra £500 million will be distributed to councils based on population and levels of deprivation, and how the costs of delivery of services varies across the country. The funding has been allocated to help councils respond to the pandemic, including a new scheme to help councils recover lost income, including from car parks and museums, which have been shut during the lockdown.

On Friday 17th July, the Government published a new framework setting out how to manage COVID-19 outbreaks through the use of national and local expertise.  New regulations will give local government additional powers to stop local transmission of the virus by allowing them to restrict local public gatherings and events, and close local businesses premises and outdoor spaces. Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan MP (Con) also announced an opportunity areas programme, focussed on levelling up education outcomes and tackling barriers to skills and employment in the most disadvantaged parts of England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP (Con) also announced that business events, conferences and events centres will be given the go ahead to reopen on 1st October if attendees adhere to social distancing. In a debate about the Finance Bill in the House of Lords, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) made a statement on how the Budget will impact rural communities and, made a plea to the Minister for rural communities to benefit from the shared prosperity fund.

This week in politics (20 July - 26 July)
  • In the House of Lords on Monday 20th July, there will be oral questions ensuring independent pharmacies are able to support the communities in which they are based with Lord Grade of Yarmouth (Con). The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Local Government will also meet to discuss the long-term funding implications for local authorities post-COVID-19.
  • On Wednesday 22nd July in the House of Commons, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee will host an oral evidence session on the work of the Department with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick MP (Con). In the House of Lords, the Public Services Committee will host an oral evidence session on public services and lessons from COVID-19.

On Wednesday 22nd July, the House will rise for the Summer Recess and return on Tuesday 1st September.

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