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Agenda for change: releasing the economic potential of England’s

Rural England is making a major contribution to the nation’s economic recovery and stands ready to play its part in the UK’s drive to achieve full economic potential. Since the beginning of 2009 the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has led discussions with rural entrepreneurs, communities and their representatives about how to release this potential. From these discussions, we have drawn up ‘Agenda for change: releasing the economic potential of England’s rural areas’.

The CRC’s ‘Agenda for change’ highlights the need for:

• more attention to be paid to ensuring economic policies and delivery address the needs of rural communities;

• local authorities and other public bodies to demonstrate a commitment to responding positively to community-led plans (locally-developed plans which embody the ambitions in the Government’s Big Society agenda);

• the planning system be used to support rather than frustrate sustainable economic growth in rural area; and.

• improvements in communications infrastructure (broadband and mobile) in rural
England (essential if rural businesses are to realise their potential and contribute to
national economic growth). Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “I welcome the work that the Commission for Rural Communities has done to capture the views of rural businesses and communities across England. I am confident that the resulting report ‘Agenda for Change’ will have useful insights and recommendations on ways to pursue and deliver further economic growth in rural areas. During the transitional period to our new Rural Communities Policy Unit, I have asked the CRC to discuss with relevant departments and other bodies how best the CRC can support them in considering and, as appropriate, working with their proposals.” Dr. Stuart Burgess, Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities said: “More of the potential of our local rural economies can and should be realised. Following this Government’s emergency budget it is clearer than ever that helping the release of this potential must be a big part of the next stage of our national economic growth. “We are pleased that the coalition Government’s ‘programme for government’ includes a commitment to introduce measures to ensure the rapid roll-out of superfast broadband across the country and that Government will seek to introduce superfast broadband in remote areas at the same time as in more populated areas”. Cllr Andrew Bowles, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Rural Commission, contributed to the discussions leading up to this report. He said: “It is good to see the leadership role of local authorities being so strongly recognised in this report. Through the work of Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities are going to be central to releasing more of the potential of rural economies in future. I commend this ‘Agenda for change’ to rural local authorities and to rural local councillors.” 
 
For further information contact Chris Wynne-Davies on 01242 534070
Notes for editors:

1 ‘Agenda for change: releasing the economic potential of England’s rural areas’ can be found at: www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk 

2 The Commission for Rural Communities is a statutory body funded by government to help ensure that policies, programmes and decisions take proper account of the circumstances of rural communities. We are required to have a particular focus on disadvantaged people and areas suffering from economic under-performance.
In essence, we have three key functions:

• Advocate: acting as a voice for rural people, businesses and communities;

• Expert adviser: giving evidence-based, objective advice to government and others; and

• Independent watchdog: monitoring and reporting on the delivery of policies nationally, regionally and locally. www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk

3 On 29 June 2010, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that the Commission for Rural Communities is to be abolished during 2011. A new Rural Communities Policy Unit will be established within Defra. Its main functions will be:

• supporting ministers;

• acting as a centre of rural expertise;

• championing rural needs and issues across government departments and other bodies; and

• working with the civic sector to promote rural solutions at the local level.
The CRC is working with Defra to identify which of its activities and staff will move into the unit.

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