The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has written to Jeremy Hunt MP and Boris Johnson MP asking them to back five pledges for the rural economy, recognising the particular needs of communities and businesses in the countryside:
Introduce a long-term funding settlement for agriculture, forestry and the environment. Current funding commitments expire at the end of this Parliament with no guarantee that sufficient funds will be made available to help deliver the Conservative Party’s ambitious environmental agenda whilst also helping the industry transition away from the Common Agricultural Policy. This lack of certainty is stifling investment as businesses wait and see what will happen next.
Commit to prohibiting food products produced to lower environmental and animal welfare standards from coming into the UK. The UK should be seeking to export its high standards not accepting lower standards from elsewhere. In addition, allowing the import of products such as chlorinated chicken as part of post-Brexit trade deals will undermine UK farmers who will be unable to compete against these cheaper low standard imports.
Ensure a fully connected countryside. For years rural areas have lagged behind towns and cities with their broadband and mobile connectivity. There are a range of steps, such as legally binding mobile targets and public investment, which if implemented will help ensure the rural economy can maximise the connectivity opportunities taken for granted in many urban areas.
Put landowners at the heart of rural housing delivery. Changes to the tax system through, for example, providing tax incentives to aid affordable housing delivery alongside providing greater certainty via the planning system at an earlier stage which will encourage land to be brought forward quickly for housing.
Create a taxation system which works for rural businesses. Many rural businesses have multiple elements, all of which are taxed differently despite forming part of a single business. Creating a single rural business unit to allow all these elements to be taxed as a single entity would help reduce administration and better reflect the reality of these businesses.
Commenting on the pledges, Tim Breitmeyer, President of the CLA said: “We cannot continue with a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to policymaking. By backing these five pledges, the next Prime Minister – whoever it will be – is making a very public commitment to ensuring the particular needs of the countryside are both recognised and met. Our membership looks forward to hearing from Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson soon.”