Central Devon issues are at the forefront as Labour launches the rural manifesto and pledges to tackle low pay for agricultural workers
Labour has launched its better plan for Central Devon, setting out its policies to build a rural economy for Britain's rural areas that works for working people and supports rural families and communities.
The rural manifesto includes a pledge to put right the damage done by the Tories’ decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, replacing it with a new taskforce to tackle low pay and protect conditions for agricultural workers.
Labour’s better plan for rural communities includes:
Tackling low-pay in agriculture by creating an industry-led taskforce on productivity and pay as well as boosting skills and apprenticeships.
Building more affordable homes by strengthening requirements on developers to build affordable housing in rural areas.
Bringing the off-grid energy sector under the remit of the regulator for the first time.
Standing up for farmers by creating a tough new supermarket watchdog by expanding the role and powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
Cutting business rates for small businesses, which employ over two-thirds of the rural workforce.
Giving rural communities more power over their own bus services.
Ensuring that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high-speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.
Devolving powers to our English county regions, giving communities the ability to shape the places they live.
By contrast, the Conservatives and Lib Dems have failed to get to grips with the challenges facing rural Britain:
Average wages are over £4500 lower a year than those in urban areas and the gap has grown by £1000 since 2010.
Developers have been allowed to end the provision of affordable housing on sites of fewer than 10 houses despite the majority of housing in rural areas being provided on small, private developer-led sites.
Rural businesses and households have seen the same soaring energy bills as the rest of the country, but have an added burden as many have no grid access, forcing them to use more expensive alternatives.
Farmers are increasingly seeing their income squeezed by powerful retailers and over 1500 dairy farmers have gone out of businesses in the last five years.
Annual transport costs are around £1000 higher in rural areas and less than half of those living in smaller rural settlements have access to a regular bus service.
Too many rural communities and businesses have been left behind without adequate broadband coverage.
Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:
The Tory plan is failing hardworking families in rural Britain. Wages are over £4500 lower than those in urban areas, while at the same time many rural families face higher living costs.
Labour’s better plan for rural Britain is based on building a rural economy that rewards hard work and shares prosperity. Only Labour has a plan to make our economy work for working people in all of parts of Britain – for those living in rural, coastal and market town communities as well as in cities.
Here are the details, with evidence and statistics;
1. Wages are lower and family costs are higher in rural areas.
Median workplace-based earnings in predominantly urban areas were £24,500 in 2013 compared to £19,900 in predominantly rural areas. The figures were £23,000 for urban and £19,400 for rural in 2010.
Source: Statistical Digest of Rural England, April 2015.
The annual outgoings of an average family in rural Britain came to £28,626 in the three years to 2013, compared to £25,048 for those in the city – a difference of £3578, or 14 per cent.
Source: ONS family expenditure data.
2. Rural housing crisis:
The average cost of a rural home is ten times wages and in 90 per cent of rural areas the average home costs 8 times wages or more. Despite there being 235,000 people on rural housing waiting lists only 9540 affordable homes were provided in rural areas last year – just one for every 25 needed.
3. Dairy farmers going out of business:
There were 11,448 dairy producers in England and Wales in 2010, compared to just 9,867 in April 2015 – a drop of 14 per cent.