Following the surprising election result, which the pollsters failed to predict, it is vital that the new Conservative Government’s Ministers recognise their collective role in unlocking the countryside’s potential and tackling some key issues head-on.
It is important that the new Ministerial team must become champions of rural business if they are to deliver on their manifesto commitments. Strong rural businesses are essential in creating jobs and vibrant communities, as well as protecting and enhancing the natural environment across Fenland and beyond.
South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which proved welcome news not only for the food and farming sectors, but for other industries within the rural economy. However landowners, farmers and rural businesses need her to rapidly address a number of issues as a matter of urgency, including those surrounding the introduction of the new Basic Payment Scheme.
However, he said landowners, farmers, rural businesses needed her to swiftly address a number of issues as a matter of urgency, including those surrounding the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). While the Rural Payments Agency’s decision to move away from the new digital system to paper in order to get the process moving is welcomed, we need to get clarification on whether payments are going to be made promptly.
She also needs to work with landowners to deliver long-term water management that covers not only periods of drought, but extreme flooding, too. In addition we need a concerted push on tackling plant and animal pests and diseases, including ash dieback and bovine TB. In terms of funding, there needs to be continued backing for agri-tech to boost the efficiency of agriculture and productivity.
With the appointments of Amber Rudd MP as Energy Secretary, Greg Clark MP as Communities and Local Government Secretary and Sajid Javid MP as Business Secretary, there is much on their agendas, too. Every department needs to take account of the needs of the rural economy, and grasp this opportunity to help unlock the countryside’s economic, social and environmental potential.
Landowners, farmers and rural businesses need Mr Javid to commit to a Universal Service Obligation for fast, reliable and affordable broadband, as well as push forward the business rates review promised in the Conservative manifesto.
It is vital that Mr Clark gets planning authorities to adopt local plans that work for rural communities, and that he tackles the shortfall in housing in the countryside which threatens the viability of small communities and rural businesses. He also needs to protect land and property owners from the dangers and ever-increasing costs of fly-tipping.
Meanwhile Ms Rudd needs to ensure a long-term and stable renewable energy policy in order to allow the delivery of renewable energy infrastructure.