Rural Related Politics - An RSN weekly review

26 May 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 
(18 May - 24 May)

On Monday 18th May, Daniel Zeichner (Lab) called a debate on rural mobility and supported bus services funds, asking how many applications have been made to the rural mobility fund and supported bus services fund since February. Also on Monday, during a debate in the House of Lords on housing, the Earl of Caithness (Con) maintained the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had a ‘bias’ towards urban property and urban issues, and asked for the minister to assure him that the rural sector will not miss out under the Government’s proposals, and that there will be an effort to provide affordable homes in rural areas.

On Tuesday 19th May, during a debate on telecommunications infrastructure, Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) asked that the Government put leasehold properties, particularly in rural areas, on the same basis as any other property when assessing connectivity needs.

On Wednesday 20th May, Highways England announced £1.3 million of funding to create a path between Weston-Super-Mare and Clevedon and complete the final part of the 24-mile coastal cycleway. This comes as part of a new £169 million Users and Communities fund to improve services for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders over the next five years on motorways and major A-roads, including increasing the options people have for sustainable travel. Also on Wednesday, Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con) answered a question from Lord Blencathra (Con) on what plans the Government has to ensure that any plans to increase public transport after the COVID-19 pandemic are based on the needs of the entire country, and reflect regional differences in transport use, and differences between urban and rural use. Baroness Vere of Norbiton responded that officials are working closely with the rail and bus industry on what a resumption of services would mean both nationally and for different regions of the country, taking account of Public Health England guidance, and considering regional differences in all modelling.

COVID-19 update

On Tuesday 19th May, during the Number 10 press conference, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Angela McLean was asked whether there was a possibility that the lockdown restrictions could be lifted earlier, in more isolated communities in the UK. She stated that location is a ‘huge focus’ at the moment, with islands in particular being a special case, but that the spread of infection is very diverse across the country. Also on Tuesday, during a debate on the future eelationship with the EU, Fay Jones (Con) said that the rural economy has been hit hard by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown, maintaining that any extension to the transition period would ‘not only cause more uncertainty for rural businesses but hold the UK economy back further at a time when vital recovery is needed’.

On Wednesday 20th May, the Government pledged £750 million to support voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations during the COVID-19 outbreak, including £200 million for the COVID-19 Community Support Fund, along with an additional £150 million from dormant bank and building society accounts. Also on Wednesday, the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport published the final evaluation report for the £16 million Youth Engagement Fund, aimed at helping disadvantaged young people aged 14 to 17 participate and succeed in education or training in England.

On Thursday 21st May, the Department for Education published examples of remote education practice by consulting with rural disadvantaged schools and colleges across England.

On Friday 22nd May, the Department of Health and Social Care announced a new funding package of £300 million for local authorities in England to develop and support the Government’s new test and trace service. Each local authority will be given funding to develop tailored outbreak control plans, working with local NHS and other stakeholders. Additionally, a new National Local Government Advisory Board will be established to work with the test and trace service, including sharing best practice between communities across the country. Work to share lessons being learned will initially be led by a group of 11 local authorities, representing rural and urban areas, who have volunteered to help localise planning.

On Saturday 23rd May, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP delivered the COVID-19 briefing. He announced £283 million in additional funding to increase the frequency and capacity of bus, tram and light rail services, in order to help people travel safely. In addition to the funding, 3,400 people including British Transport Police officers, Network Rail and train operator staff have been deployed at stations to advise passengers and make sure people can follow the guidance put in place. Mr Shapps also stated that the Government is also working with local authorities and private car park owners to make it easier for people commuting by car to get closer to their place of work and finish their journey on foot or by bike without the need to take public transport. Lastly, he announced the preferred route for the £1 billion A66 Trans Pennine upgrade.

On Sunday 24th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that children in Reception, Year One and Year Six should return to school from 1st June, and that from 15th June, secondary age children in Year 10 or 12 should have ‘some contact’, however there will be no more than one quarter of children at school at any point. The Department for Education has published new guidance on reopening schools and the Cabinet Office has published guidance on social distancing for young people. Also on Sunday, High Streets Minister Simon Clarke announced a new £50 million fund for councils to support their local high streets get safely back to business.

On Monday 25th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered the COVID-19 briefing. He announced that outdoor markets and car showrooms will be allow to reopen on 1st June, with all other non-essential retail able to reopen on 15th June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines. In addition to this, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published guidance on for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments, and guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.


This week in politics 
(25 May - 31May)

Parliament is on recess, so parliamentary business is limited, with the exception of some select committees listed below. Parliament resumes on the 2nd June. 

  • On Tuesday 26th May, the Economic Affairs Committee will have a virtual oral evidence session covering the economics of Universal Credit.
  • On Wednesday 27th May, in the House of Commons the Education Committee will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services with Andrew McCully, the Director General for Early Years and School Groups at the Department for Education.

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