This very thoughtful and illuminating report is the latest in a useful list of analysis on this subject. It tells us:

Millions of people living in rural England are at risk of being ‘left behind’ and missing out on their fair share of future prosperity following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, council leaders warn.

The Local Government Association (LGA) set up a Post-Brexit England Commission to examine the challenges and opportunities faced by non-metropolitan England. Its final report, published at the LGA’s Annual Conference in Bournemouth on 4 July 2019, argues that the challenges facing rural areas can only be met by passing down greater powers to local areas.

Towns and villages outside the big cities are facing unique challenges but are increasingly frustrated that the levers of power continue to be held in Westminster and Whitehall. 

LGA analysis finds the crucial issues faced by communities outside of England’s cities include:

A disproportionately ageing population which will see the majority rural areas reaching a “tipping point” of over 50 retired residents per 100 of working age residents by 2030, as younger people struggle to find jobs and homes locally and move away. Many council areas are already at that level today.

  • Durham currently has 53 retired residents per 100 of working age which is forecast to rise to 60 retired residents per 100 working age by 2026 and 76 retired per 100 working age by 2041.
  • North Norfolk has 63 retired residents per 100 of working age which is forecast to rise to 70 retired residents per 100 working age by 2026 and 86 retired per 100 working age by 2041.
  • West Dorset has 54 retired residents per 100 working age which is forecast to rise to 67 retired residents per 100 working age by 2026 and 88 retired per 100 working age by 2041.
  • Rother has 58 retired residents per 100 working age which is forecast to rise to 69 retired residents per 100 working age by 2026 and 89 retired per 100 working age by 2041.

Businesses that are on average 30 per cent less productive per job than urban areas with a major town centre, as economic growth in cities is fast-tracked by national Government through devolution deals and local industrial strategies.

Poor mobile and broadband connectivity across communities outside cities with only 42 per cent of rural residents receiving a 4G signal from every major mobile network operator in their homes.

Without their fair share of investment, councils are concerned that the brain drain away from rural areas and towards bigger cities and towns will continue. A new survey carried out for the LGA found seven in ten rural residents believe councils are best placed to improve their local areas and deliver the services communities desperately need. In sharp contrast, just 2 per cent said they believed central government was best placed to meet the needs of rural areas.

The LGA is calling for the Government to use the Spending Review to address the £8 billion overall funding gap facing councils by 2025.

Government also needs to recognise the growing sense of disconnection in rural England and the historic opportunity by giving councils the powers and freedoms to seize the initiative and make sure their communities and businesses can thrive.

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