Defra urged to focus on rural economy

6 Nov 08
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should focus on better understanding rural economies now it has lost its climate change brief, MPs have said

07 November 2008

By Paul Dicken

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should focus on better understanding rural economies now it has lost its climate change brief, MPs have said.

A report by the Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee said Defra had the opportunity to focus more on its rural affairs responsibilities. This would dispel the perception that this area was marginalised in the department following the creation of a Department for Energy and Climate Change.

In a report, The potential of England's rural economy, published on October 29, the committee said 'tackling the factors that inhibit the growth of businesses in rural areas could make a substantial difference to the performance of England's economy as a whole'.

Government support should be tailored to the specific needs of rural areas, the report added. It recommended that a plan be drawn up to set out the role other departments, regional development agencies and local authorities could play.

Committee chair Michael Jack said entrepreneurialism was alive in the rural economy, but lasting solutions to the challenges of affordable housing, transport costs and maintenance of a skilled labour force must be found.

'With climate change gone from Hilary Benn's in-tray, his department must spend more time banging heads together across Whitehall to really make thorough “rural proofing” of government policy a reality,' he added.

PFnov2008

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