Towards a one nation economy

UK: A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs wants to harness the enormous economic potential England’s rural areas have to offer, both for the prosperity of those living in rural areas and for the benefit of the UK economy overall.

Last month, the UK Government published their ambitious plan (Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation) for strengthening UK productivity. Relatively weak productivity performance has been a long term challenge for the UK economy and it is only by achieving world-beating productivity that we can deliver sustained growth and rising living standards for all. They set out a comprehensive set of actions for addressing the challenges and for ensuring that all parts of the country contribute to, and benefit from, productivity growth. As said then, "a nation flourishes when it uses the full skills of all its people in all parts of that nation." That includes England’s rural areas, from Cornwall to Cumbria.

England’s rural areas are a distinct part of our national character. But they also make a substantial and vitally important contribution to the economy, accounting for around £210 billion, or 16%, of England’s total output. Economic activity in rural areas is diverse, with significant manufacturing and services sectors. It is also becoming increasingly dynamic. Knowledge-based and creative industries are growing rapidly. Flexible, home-working is more prevalent in rural than in urban areas, and tends to involve higher skilled, higher wage roles. The government is seeing net internal migration from urban to rural areas, including of highly skilled people attracted by the excellent quality of life on offer.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs wants to do all they can, whilst continuing on their path of fiscal responsibility, to remove barriers and put in place the best possible conditions for England’s rural areas to thrive. In this report they set their our 10-point plan to help boost rural productivity. It complements the government’s wider efforts to promote access in rural areas to high quality public services, focusing on ten specific areas they believe could make a real difference to productivity. It is wide-ranging and will require efforts across government, as well as close working with others outside of government, to deliver. It is central to our offer and ambition for England’s rural areas. We will monitor progress closely.

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