Edited by Jane Midgley, A New Rural Agenda covers a wide range of issues, from economic development, poverty and public services to the governance and politics of rural areas. It discusses what rural policy is currently doing and what it could achieve in the future. In each policy area, it asks what the institutions of government can do to build a fairer society in the UK's rural areas.
Ms Midgley and John Adams examine the social and economic issues facing rural areas and the position of rural affairs within current public policy. They argue for greater working between central government departments and Defra, proposing joint Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, the development of a progressive vision for the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and improved connections between central and local policy.
European agriculture and rural development policies for the twenty first century
By Philip Lowe, director of the UK Research Council's Rural Economy and Land Use Programme
Lowe examines the evolution of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from a mechanism that supports agricultural production to one with an emphasis on broader rural development. He highlights the difficulties of establishing common rural development goals across Europe and argues that rural economic development has been constrained by national agricultural interests and institutional conservatism across Europe. He says Europe must make a strong case for a greater refocusing of CAP on rural development.
Rural development and the economies of rural areas
By Neil Ward, Director of the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University
Ward explores the diversity and complexity of rural areas and their economies and the opportunities that could be provided by viewing rural areas and their assets as active contributors to the development of cities, city regions and nations. He also addresses some of the current policy issues facing rural economic development.
Delivering economic regeneration in rural areas: a view from the front line
By Richard Pealing, Rural Regeneration Cumbria
Pealing assesses the difficulties of delivering economic regeneration at the sub-regional level within rural Cumbria. He discusses some of the challenges he has faced trying to raise productivity and broadening the economic base of rural Cumbria.
Poverty, social exclusion and welfare in rural Britain
Paul Milbourne, Cardiff University and Director of the Wales Rural Observatory
Milbourne discusses the continued presence of income-related poverty as a 'hidden phenomenon' in rural Britain. He concludes that the majority of the rural poor are elderly, and many of the rural poor are in work. Drawing on US evidence he shows that child poverty has declined at lower rates in rural areas than in urban areas and that the reformed welfare-to-work programmes provide rural inhabitants with limited opportunities to advance beyond entry-level jobs.
Rural services: provision and accessibility
By Brian Wilson, group director, Commission for Rural Communities
Wilson explores the inequalities of policy actions in rural service provision, discussing provision from the public, private and third sector. He says that rural communities often feel worried that if public services are delivered by large units of public sector administration - such as regional police forces - they will not respond to rural needs. He argues that the challenge for the public sector is great. However, the potential exists for new innovative means of rural service provision, through the growth in information and communication technology (ICT) and possibilities for 'e-delivery'.
Rural housing affordability and sustainable communities
By Sarah Monk and Aoife Ni Luanaigh, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research
Monk and Ni Luanaigh chart the many contributing factors that have led to rural housing affordability being such a high political priority. Drawing on detailed evidence from the West Midlands, they look at some of the issues surrounding housing affordability and the Government's 'sustainable communities' agenda. They argue that the current policy of improving affordability through planning gain mechanisms, for example through building social housing as part of market housing developments, achieves relatively small returns over a long time period. They ask for a greater commitment to affordable housing provision across all rural settlements.
Making a difference: challenging rural deprivation
By Sara Gowen, Peak District Rural Deprivation Forum
Based on first-hand experience of working with communities in the Peak District, Gowen comments on the practical day-to-day pressures of responding to rural deprivation and local service provision. She focuses on the challenges faced in supporting rural women to return to the workforce, and stresses that if practice does not inform policy we will not see improvements to the quality of life of rural residents.
Rural politics and governance
By Mike Woods, University of Wales
Woods provides an overview of the increasing complexity of rural governance within the UK and the increasing profile of rural issues in the political arena since Labour's 1997 election victory. He expresses concern at the disparate levels of participation in rural politics.