After almost a decade of Tory led governments vast swathes of countryside communities have been let down if not closed down. There are still too many not-spots for mobile reception, too many places without decent broadband, places where you can’t get to stay and live locally in a home to own or rent; while the bus service that might once have gotten you to work, life or play has long since been cut. Tory austerity has destroyed the fabric of the local services that serve rural communities.
We know that Labour does get the importance of many of these issues and is pledging to do right by every rural community of the UK.
On top of specific policy commitment already made that can only help such communities, such as on rural housing with a new presumption that there is no development without affordable housing, to ensure that smaller and rural communities get the genuinely affordable homes they need; through to bringing back 3,000 abandoned bus routes, we have also encouraged the front bench to pledge that:
- If a town has a primary school it will still have it after a full term of Labour;
- For every community served by a Post Office, they will still be served by a Post Office after a full term of Labour (just as Labour will legislate to prevent any further bank closures that undermine the viability of many of the high streets of our towns);
- Labour make an industrial strategy scale of investment for communities of coast and country, ensuring each county and its towns has access to funds for regeneration, connectivity and local priorities – building on the creation of Regional Investment Banks;
- Labour will ‘rural-proofing’ all domestic policies (as in 1997-2010).
To help ensure these things are delivered a future Labour government must trust the people of these communities and bring forward plans to strengthen their local government, including new powers to community, town, and parish councils to take on neighbourhood responsibilities and services, and to also support those larger areas that want to bring together their two tier councils into unitaries to reflect local needs, based on combinations of existing districts. In England only Labour can resolve the missing devolutionary settlement that England so desperately needs.
Hywel Lloyd | Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country.