Rural Urban Connection is an independent think tank which aims to educate and inform policy makers of the importance of linking rural and urban areas. With the United Kingdom now on the brink of leaving the European Union, it will become increasingly more important that the whole country works together to build a country that is a great place to live and work. We can all prosper from the opportunities that Brexit may offer the United Kingdom and create partners from across the world to join us as a truly global, outward looking country.
Here is a manifesto that sets out what Rural Urban Connection believe are policies that can unite rural and urban areas to deliver the aspirations of our businesses and our communities.
According to the Local Government Association, non-metropolitan England contributes 56%of England's Gross Value Added (GVA) and, between 2010 and 2015, increased its GVA per head by 13% – double the rate of London. In order to maintain this exceptional growth, promote flexible working and encourage cooperation between rural and urban businesses, we suggest that the next government considers the following:
The full inclusion of rural areas in the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
Local Enterprise Partnerships to include rural business and connectivity between urban and rural areas in their strategy documents.
Improvements to transport links between rural areas and cities to attract young, working aged people and families to rural areas, whilst keeping links to cities as centres of work, culture and service.
Flexible working and the ability to create digital businesses means that wealth creation does not need to be based in the city regions; now professionals and staff working from home can operate in both urban and rural areas.
Digital technologies are being proposed as solutions for many services. In order to provide for this and to connect businesses and communities across the UK, the next incumbent government should consider the following:
Universal Service Obligation delivered on broadband and 5G.
Wireless solutions implemented to extend Gigabyte Broadband to remote areas.Rural Business Connectivity to city regions to allow flexible working.
A phone bill levy (similar to tree deal on energy bills) to complete 5G roll out using the Shared Rural Network principle between Mobile Phone Companies.
Use old unused FM Emergency Frequencies to create local low frequency network for use in connecting flood level indicators and vulnerable people to emergency centres via technology already available
The ‘Campaign For Better Transport’ reported last year that rural public transport was in crisis. A modern public transport system would enable better access to services and employment, but also open up new areas for the visitor economy. The next government should consider the following:
Move to a GVA case for infrastructure funding rather than population coverage for rural connectivity.
Create Transport Commissioners to deliver accountable regional specific transport solutions.Use technology to deliver greener public transport suitable to rural areas and distances, for example hydrogen cell buses.
Create new bus franchising to support less viable services by pairing with profitable services.
Create public transport systems across travel to work areas rather than Local Authority areas. Create digital integrated ticketing to support end to end public transport solutions
Rural house building was dramatically reduced for over a decade in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Furthermore, the majority of homes in rural areas are significantly less insulated and are inappropriate for older residents or for starter homes. We propose that the next government should:
Deliver planning reform to allow innovative housing solutions, such as Modular housing and off grid communities using renewables, subdivisions and conversions of large houses in to flats in villages with little or no planning restrictions.
Develop new mixed-use housing for elderly residents on the ground floor with younger families on upper floors with low rents and a principle to support each other.
Create an innovative market for truly affordable homes in rural areas.
Create rural exception sites to deliver housing with tax breaks and incentives.
Health and social care
Rural areas contain higher densities of ageing populations with more acute social care needs, yet receive less universal provision through public healthcare than urban areas. To deliver better services across the whole UK, the government needs radial solutions. We believe the following would be helpful to overhaul healthcare provision:
Joined up healthcare solutions in rural areas building on the success of integrated care communities that incorporate public, private and third sector solutions.
Rural hubs for Extra Care Homes to prevent social exclusion and accelerated care needs.Increased use of technology to create social interaction and reduce isolation.
Develop care partnerships with better services based in urban areas.
Education and Training
The relatively poor provision of local education and the current presumption that residential university education is the ideal is encouraging and exacerbating the drain of working age people from rural areas.
To enable a more inclusive education system for all, the government should consider the following:
Fair funding for rural schools.
Encourage enterprising collaborations and academy groups of primary and secondary schools to share best practice and resources.
A new deal for post-16 education across the UK including access from rural areas.
Encourage business academies from age 14 to 18 to encourage specific learning in key areas of local need and promote further academic study.
Further Education makes use of technology to include distance learning and cluster/partnership to deliver education for all across urban and rural areas.
Local government reform has been sporadic and patchy. Government have been unwilling to impose local government structure leading to a messy mix of systems and funding streams. This has led to inequality across the local government sector.
Central government should consider reform of local government in non-metropolitan areas with the following policy initiatives:
Extend the principle of localism set out in the 2010 Localism Act to include neighbourhood transport plans
Support for parish and town councils to take on more local service provisionParliamentary reform of local government to deliver parity in funding and structure across rural and urban areas.
Fair and equal funding for rural and urban services.More emphasis on regional devolution for transport, health, social care and emergency service provision through elected commissioners
Scrap business rates in favour of a new solution based on business need and delivery
Arts and Culture
Arts and Culture are the key to a community’s identity and to the wellbeing of the nation. Government funding is highly skewed to London, but also to urban and southern regions. We understand that some of this is a necessary symptom of delivery, but government should consider the following in its funding streams:
A presumption that arts and culture can benefit everyone across the country within government funding.
Incorporating arts and culture into large civil projects, such as road and rail building.