Tag Archives: rural

Conference: Morgan calls on Lib Dems to stand up for rural communities

One of the Lib Dems’ newest MPs, Helen Morgan has put forward a motion on supporting rural communities to Conference in September. The wide ranging motion, which will be summated by Richard Foord, calls on delegates to agree that rural areas should no longer be taken for granted and that the Liberal Democrats are best placed to help them. It says the government should introduce a price cap on heating oil and other off-grid fuels and expand the rural fuel duty relief scheme to be doubled and to cover more areas. It also calls for ministers to protect rural childcare providers with a package of support and provide emergency funding available to ambulance trusts to reverse or cancel closures of community ambulance stations.

Speaking exclusively to Lib Dem Voice, Helen Morgan said:

Those of us who live in rural areas like Shropshire are all well aware of the poor state of our services – from health to transport to broadband and policing.

The Conservatives have taken us for granted for far too long. My election was proof that people have had enough and want to be represented by a party with their interests at heart.

The UK cannot properly be levelled up without its rural areas being included.

The full motion is below.

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Tim Farron on Cumbria’s rural housing crisis

Tourism is the lifeblood of many of our most spectacular rural communities. Nut there is a downside for the people who live there all year round. Second homes and holiday lets mean that it can be difficult for local people to find somewhere to live.

Tim Farron raised this in a debate in Parliament this week. Here is is opening speech.

It is a huge privilege to serve our communities in Cumbria—our towns, villages lakes and dales, among the rugged beauty of England’s finest landscapes—yet the people who live in our communities are even more precious than the places themselves. We welcome those who see Cumbria as a holiday destination: a place for leisure and relaxation, and a place of peaceful serenity and exhilarating extremes. It is our collective privilege to be the stewards of such a spectacular environment for the country, yet our full-time local communities face an existential threat unlike any other in the UK. I am immensely grateful to have secured this debate, because the housing crisis that has faced our communities in Cumbria and elsewhere in rural Britain for decades has rapidly become a catastrophe during the two years of the pandemic.

For the last few decades, we have seen an erosion in the number of properties in Cumbria that are available and affordable for local people to buy or rent. What little I know of geology tells me that although erosion usually takes place over huge passages of time, sometimes a whole rockface may collapse or a whole piece of a cliff might drop into the sea in a single instant. That is what has happened to our housing stock during the pandemic. In the space of less than two years, a bad situation has become utterly disastrous.

I have been calling for the Government to take action from the very beginning, so I confess to being frustrated and angry that Ministers have yet to do anything meaningful to tackle the problem. As a result, many of us living in rural communities feel ignored, abandoned and taken for granted by the Government, and we stand together today as rural communities to declare that we will not be taken for granted one moment longer.

In South Lakeland, the average house price is 11 times greater than the average household income. Families on low or middle incomes, and even those on reasonably good incomes, are completely excluded from the possibility of buying a home. Although the local council in South Lakeland has enabled the building of more than 1,000 new social rented properties, there are still more than 3,000 families languishing on the housing waiting list. Even before the pandemic, at least one in seven houses in my constituency was a second home—a bolthole or an investment for people whose main home is somewhere else.

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Not quite “too busy killing foxes”

It’s a real pity that the same tired old tactics are sometimes still being used to fight a class war.

If you are inclined to accept without question the article Blue Foxes Red Green and Gold Star you would understandably have a very negative view of the Countryside Alliance and of hunting too. Look a little harder and a very different picture emerges.

The Alliance is attacked for ignoring rural communities during the devastating flooding over the Christmas period. Leaving the hunting issue to one side for the moment, anyone looking at the Countryside Alliance website would have been able to access key information on help for farmers and their livestock affected by the floods, links to Environmental Agency and an agricultural benevolent fund to help farmers in financial need. Social media covered these issue too. Not quite the “too busy killing foxes” image as the article would have you believe.

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Blue foxes, red greens and a gold star

Boxing Day saw the Countryside Alliance wrong footed. The Countryside Alliance for those not in the know is an organisation that masquerades as the champion of rural life but is in fact merely the mouthpiece for blood sports such as fox hunting and grouse shooting. It is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing and on Boxing Day like many others it was caught out by the weather.

Boxing Day is fox hunting’s showpiece day and the Countryside Alliance went wild on Twitter to proclaim that a quarter of a million fox hunters and their supporters had taken to town squares and village greens across the land to celebrate what they see as the impending and inevitable demise of the Hunting Act. With Christmas card scenes of scarlet clad gents and gentesses on horseback trotting ceremoniously in a sea of hounds and polished hunting horns heralding a return to Merry England we were treated to an endless stream of romantic snaps.

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Charles Kennedy: Independence would “inflict huge damage” on rural Scotland

Charles Kennedy is not one for the sort of sloppy, casual scaremongering we’ve seen from both sides in the Scottish independence debate. Danny Alexander has form for it, saying, unhelpfully,  the other day that independence would be worse for Scotland than the 2008 economic crash. So when he expresses concerns about stuff, we should probably take notice.

He will be talking today about the effects of independence on rural Scotland, like the massive area he represents. He’s particularly concerned with the costs of providing the postal service.

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The biggest urban myth: the Tories have a birthright to the Shires

Countryside Alliance web shotgunChampions of the Countryside Alliance boast that it is the voice of rural Britain. I disagree. It is just one voice within rural Britain. It’s like saying that the Tories are the voice of the Home Counties and Labour is the voice of the Industrial North. That’s just lousy stereotypical language. There are many different voices within rural England.

I am forever angry that the London press, especially the right leaning press, routinely trots out stereotypes about life in our rural areas. They seem to believe that “Escape to the Country” is something authentic. It’s a reality show, no more.

One reason why rural areas get such a bad deal in public policy is that London journalists rely on urban myths about the countryside rather than trying to understand rural reality. This reality game is not without victims. The media’s glib characterisations of country life distort discussions of pressing issues like rural funding, schooling and a working landscape. And most of all, the need for jobs and decent housing in rural areas.

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Danny Alexander announces plans to extend rural fuel derogation

petrol pumpIn 2010, Danny Alexander made sure that there was a commitment to fair rural fuel duty in the Coalition Agreement. Last year he was able to deliver on that, securing a 5p reduction in duty for remote island areas.

Now he wants to see if that can be extended. As a first step towards that, petrol retailers are being asked to supply details of the prices they charge .The Government will then use that information as the basis s of a further application to reduce the duty in those areas.

If …

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Have your say on our Rural Policy paper

It is my firm belief that local people know the area they live in best, village to village, town to town.

I have been asked to have a think about what policy changes should be made so that people in rural areas get a fairer deal and the resultant rural policy paper will be presented at Autumn Conference. Clearly, we must be realistic – none of us expects to have major services (such as hospitals) on our doorstep. However, it seems to me that there are some areas of Government policy which could reflect rural needs more effectively.

I chose …

Posted in News and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 16 Comments

Charles Kennedy MP writes…How you can help save our Sleeper

The Caledonian sleeper services are a Scottish institution, a symbol of the comfort and style which was once the hallmark of the railways. They are invaluable for connecting the more remote parts of the Highlands to the UK Capital, allowing Scottish people to reach morning meetings in England and Londoners to catch the Deerstalker Express straight to the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals & businesses who have been in touch over the years to tell me just how important …

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments
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