APPG report influences levelling up debate

CLA Senior Public Affairs Manager Eleanor Wood blogs about a recent levelling up debate in Parliament and how it draws on the work of the APPG for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse
Saxby with APPG report.png

Earlier this week, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse, Selaine Saxby (Con, North Devon), led a debate in the House of Commons on Levelling Up Rural Britain.

This debate directly follows the work of the APPG, which led an extensive inquiry into rural productivity and the main barriers to its growth. The CLA supported the work of the inquiry, which published an influential report that has helped shape government thinking on rural policy. Selaine was captured proudly holding the report in the chamber during the debate.

Levelling up the rural economy report

Rural has been consistently missed in the Levelling Up agenda. The recent Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill only referenced rural areas a handful of times. Many rural MPs joined the debate to highlight their frustration on this and the growing inequalities between urban and rural areas, but also the areas of opportunity available, such as the economic growth that better connectivity would deliver and the benefit of sustainable development.

In her opening remarks, Selaine Saxby raised awareness about the lack of joined-up thinking that the government often displays when it comes to rural issues. It is a common occurrence that if an issue is determined to be a “rural” one, then it is confined to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. in fact, there is much crossover between government departments on issues such as connectivity, planning and transport.

A core recommendation from the APPG report was that a cross departmental group must be set up to help grow the rural economy by bringing together officials and ministers to work more closely on how policy can work for both urban and rural areas.

The shadow Labour team also took part in the debate with Shadow Levelling Up Minister Alex Norris (Nottingham North) saying it wasn’t a competition between the north or the south for who should be “levelled up” but that all areas should be brought to a higher level.

The government’s response was slightly lacklustre, with Levelling Up Minster Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire) agreeing that rural areas were a priority area for the government, and that the department would continue to work with stakeholders on how this can be achieved.

The CLA will work to sure he is held of this commitment and boost the position of rural areas within the levelling up agenda.

The full transcript of the debate is available here.