Labour is today launching its better plan for rural Britain, we are setting out our policies to build a rural economy that works for working people and supports rural families and communities. The rural manifesto includes a pledge to put right the damage done by the Tories’ decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, replacing it with a new taskforce to tackle low pay and protect conditions for agricultural workers.
Labour’s better plan for rural communities includes:
Tackling low-pay in agriculture by creating an industry-led taskforce on productivity and pay as well as boosting skills and apprenticeships.
Build more affordable homes by strengthening requirements on developers to build affordable housing in rural areas.
Bringing the off-grid energy sector under the remit of the regulator for the first time.
Standing up for farmers by creating a tough new supermarket watchdog by expanding the role and powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
Cutting business rates for small businesses, which employ over two-thirds of the rural workforce.
Giving rural communities more power over their own bus services.
Ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.
Devolving powers to our English county regions, giving communities the ability to shape the places they live.
By contrast, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have failed to get to grips with the challenges facing rural Britain:
Average wages are over £4500 lower a year than those in urban areas and the gap has grown by £1000 since 2010.
Developers have been allowed to end the provision of affordable housing on sites of fewer than 10 houses despite the majority of housing in rural areas being provided on small, private developer-led sites.
Rural businesses and households have seen the same soaring energy bills as the rest of the country, but have an added burden as many have no grid access, forcing them to use more expensive alternatives.
Farmers are increasingly seeing their income squeezed by powerful retailers and over 1500 dairy farmers have gone out of businesses in the last five years.
Annual transport costs are around £1000 higher in rural areas and less than half of those living in smaller rural settlements have access to a regular bus service.
Too many rural communities and businesses have been left behind without adequate broadband coverage.