The Liberal Democrats are the party of rural communities

For as long as I can remember, the mantra has been that the Conservative Party is the party of the countryside. My question is, why? Have they done anything for rural areas or have they simply taken them for granted?

It is time that we who live and work here in our communities and understand far more about rural issues than our opposition, took on that role. This year, on 2 May 2019, the public in many areas gave us their confidence and elected around 704 new councillors, many of them in rural and coastal areas. We are now in control in 49 councils either alone or in partnership. A clear majority of these are rural or coastal or both.

Now is the time to share best practice and strengthen our policy for rural delivery.

Rural and coastal communities are individual and have characters of their own. How do the Liberal Democrats work with that and make it work?

Campaigning needs to be the same but different to that in urban areas. Liberal Democrats are far better at working on the ground than other parties but in rural areas it’s remembered and valued by constituents.

Knocking on doors across a rural area will pay dividends if you do it year in and year out. Meeting people in the back of beyond where the opposition rarely go, stays with those residents and many repay the work. Knocking on the doors of new residents on the electoral roll is also a winning step.

Regular newsletters touching the whole of the electoral area keep residents abreast of local issues. Your work is of course important in both rural and urban areas, but in many rural areas, residents frequently cannot get that local information easily and you are providing a real service in doing that.

Email contact in rural areas is even more effective as the emails can cover huge distances and they are free. Complying with GDPR is important but not difficult. So what better than to be able to quote good practice from Liberal Democrat run councils to show up your administration if you are in opposition? Or use if you are the administration and want to avoid reinventing the wheel on housing, road repairs, adult social care delivery in remote area, transport, education etc.

At Bournemouth we will be launching a booklet starts that process and hopefully will begin the process of our councils and Liberal Democrat campaigners sharing their successes more often for others to use and learn from. This booklet should help to inform that and inspire many of our new councils to deliver even more. We are the party of community.

Now is the time for us to launch a strategy for the countryside, our market and coastal towns.  A clear set of messages to our rural areas of what we stand for in the countryside, from biodiversity and the environment, to access to services and isolation, equality, investment, regeneration and fair funding.

So come and hear more about what we can do to help our rural communities and smaller towns from some of the parties key rural campaigners, Former Somerset councillor and now leading Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Cathy Bakewell; Graham Briggs of the Rural Services Network who have been campaigning for more resources for rural communities; one of our new Council Leaders Councillor Sarah Butikofer from North Norfolk District Council; and Councillor Alan Connett, Liberal Democrat Group Leader at Devon County Council both who have run successful local campaigns resulting in major election successes.

So join us on Saturday 14 September, 6.15-7.30pm in the Hardy Suite, Hermitage Hotel (Exeter Road opposite the conference centre) Refreshments will be provided 

You can see a full list of LGA Liberal Democrat and ALDC Local Government events at conference here.

 

  

* Councillor Heather Kidd is the Liberal Democrat Group Lead on the People & Places Board that covers Rural Issues at the Local Government Association.  The LGA is a politically led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils (in England and Wales) to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government. 

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