2013-03-04 xml
Rural Economy Motion to be Debated at Lib Dem Party Conference

Saturday 9th March 2013 will see rural issues pushed up the Liberal Democrat’s political agenda.

Julie Pörksen, former economist at the Scottish Agricultural College and daughter of Northumbrian sheep farmer Hans Pörksen, is moving a policy motion which seeks to revitalise the rural economy through prioritising farm profitability, communications for rural businesses and investing in rural communities.

Julie Pörksen

Julie Pörksen

Julie Pörksen says: “I am proposing this motion because for too long the Conservatives and Labour have neglected the development and rights of rural people. It’s about time farmers, and consumers, got a fair deal. Farmers have been on the receiving end of the excessive costs of bureaucracy and the greed of the supermarkets for too long.

Government policies ignore the reality of rural communities where there is usually no choice of rural school, transport, care or health provision - when we don’t have a choice we must ensure quality. I am fighting for the rights of rural people to live and work within a thriving rural community and economy.”

Revitalising the Rural Economy
Conference considers that modern rural communities should be vibrant places, where people can live in affordable homes, find employment, and have full access to education, health and other services, while contributing to the UK’s economic growth.

Conference is concerned for the sustainable future of rural Britain. Conference believes that people should not suffer from intrinsic or disproportionate lack of opportunities because they live or work in rural locations, and acknowledges that successive Labour and Conservative Governments have not prioritised the concerns of rural areas sufficiently.

Conference believes that the main problems facing rural communities include:
i) Unemployment and underemployment, and in particular a lack of training and job opportunities for young people.
ii) Lack of investment in modern infrastructure, such as Broadband.
iii) Rising energy prices which disproportionately impact on rural households and businesses, due to distance, lack of viable public transport options and reliance on more expensive heating sources, such as oil.
iv) A lack of affordable housing, and the impact on the housing stock of second homes and holiday-lets.
v) Barriers to entry into the agricultural sector and the market dominance of a small number of large supermarkets.

Conference welcomes recent action on rural issues across all levels of government, including:
a) Ending the Council Tax discount on second homes.
b) The Grocery Adjudicator Bill.
c) The fuel rebate pilot scheme for islands.
d) Scrapping of the fuel duty increase, which was planned for January 2013 by Brown’s Labour government.
e) Multi-service ventures, such as libraries joining with other local services instead of being closed.
f) Parishes investing wind farm revenues for long-term community development.

Conference calls for further action to support rural areas by local and central government, including:
1. Investment in rural high speed broadband coverage and mobile phone and broadband reception.
2. Enabling fair trade for British farmers, ensuring a transparent and fair market, with proportionate regulation and balanced market controls.
3. Future reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy and their implementation in the UK fully to take into account effects on efficiency and profitability, rural jobs, market fairness and transparency, the environment and animal welfare, and the costs to farmers, consumers, and government.
4. A sustainable rural jobs fund, to assist local areas in the development of viable employment through rural entrepreneurs and business start-up centres, rural apprenticeship programmes and multi-service centres, and promotion of access to finance.
5. Greater investment in and by parish councils, supported by other local authorities, to support rural shops and businesses and community enterprises.
6. Investments in maintaining rural roads, and ‘joined up’ rural transport schemes to improve access and ensure ease of use.
7. Extension of the rural fuel rebate pilot scheme for island communities to other remote parts of the UK that display similar cost characteristics to the islands.
8. Affordable rural housing that cannot be used for second homes, ideally run by housing associations working with parish councils.
9. Effective rural-proofing of government policies, ensuring rural economies, employment, education, services and communities are not disadvantaged in the future.

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