Councils warn of post-Brexit 'perfect storm' in rural communities

By agency reporter
July 5, 2018

The Local Government Association (LGA) has set up a Post-Brexit England Commission to examine the challenges and opportunities faced by non-metropolitan England. An interim report, published at the its Annual Conference in Birmingham on 4 July 2018, sets out the measures needed to address a deepening divide between rural and urban areas of England.

At a time of historic change for the country, and with Government’s attention and resources focused on delivering a successful national Brexit, the crucial issues faced by communities outside of England’s cities include:

  • A demographic time bomb with national population projections showing that by 2039 for every 100 working-age residents there will be 53 people aged 65 or older, which will put increasing pressure on health services in rural areas.
  • Residents struggling to stay in their local community due to a lack of homes at a price they can afford with the average house price in non-metropolitan England 60 per cent more expensive than in cities outside of London.
  • Businesses grappling with patchy mobile and broadband connectivity that cuts off their access to new markets with a recent survey conducted by Amazon revealing almost 40 per cent rated their internet connection speed as poor
  • A growing workforce skills gap across all areas, which if not addressed could put at risk 4 per cent of future economic growth across the country – the equivalent to a loss of £90 billion economic output.

The report argues that these challenges can only be met by passing down greater powers to local areas while national government gets on with delivering a successful Brexit.

This includes giving all councils the ability to borrow to build new affordable homes, devolving funding and control over under-performing national skills and employment schemes to local areas, handing councils legal powers to ensure all new build homes are connected to future-proofed digital infrastructure and plugging the adult social care funding gap which will reach £3.5 billion by 2025.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “Rural areas face a perfect storm. It is increasingly difficult for people to buy a home in their local community, mobile and broadband connectivity can be patchy, and people living within rural and deeply rural communities face increasing isolation from health services.

“If Britain is to make the most of a successful future outside of the European Union, it’s essential that our future success is not confined to our cities. Unless the Government can give non-metropolitan England the powers and resources it needs, it will be left behind. 

“This report outlines to Government a firm offer from councils in non-metropolitan areas, to play a greater role in building thriving, connected and healthy communities. It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for non-metropolitan England to not only improve public services, but deliver a resurgence in rural England’s economy as well.”

* 'Non metropolitan England' is an term inclusive of the large and small towns, villages and hamlets,  coastal communities and the rural and the deeply rural areas in which 62 per cent of the English population live. The LGA’s Post-Brexit England Commission launched in February 2018 and issued a call for evidence to inform the findings of this interim report. Since then it has engaged a broad coalition of stakeholders with an interest in the future of non-metropolitan England. It will publish a final report next year.

The future of non-metropolitan England: Moving the conversation on is available to purchase here

* Local Government Association


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