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CUMBRIAN RURAL RECOVERY SUCCESS FOLLOWING VISIT TO LONDON

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Cumbria has gained support from government for its ambitious plans for rural recovery, the Rural Action Zone (RAZ)....
Cumbria has gained support from government for its ambitious plans for rural recovery, the Rural Action Zone (RAZ). The news came following a meeting with Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, yesterday. The Cumbrian delegation, led by county council leader Rex Toft, chair of the Cumbrian foot and mouth taskforce confirmed that over£240m, about 90% of all the funds required to deliver the five-year RAZ proposals, have now been identified.

Mr Toft said:

'We received vital backing from government through Alun Michael. He commended our constructive and imaginative approach to recovery in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis. It is clear the government wants a formal, long-term partnership with Cumbria, working alongside our colleagues across the region, built around the rural action zone to tackle the major issues we have identified. The support we had yesterday from our colleagues from Lancashire, Cheshire and the North West Development Agency strengthened our case.

'We made real progress on a whole range of RAZ proposals; pooling of expertise and resources, the chance to pilot innovative approaches to rural recovery and a commitment from DEFRA to work closely with us.

'The minister specifically recognised the potential crisis facing Cumbrian businesses in April if concessions for VAT, business rates and national Insurance are suddenly withdrawn and will encourage a sympathetic approach to this issue.'

Council deputy leader Mike Ash added:

'I was encouraged that recognition of our long-term needs is now evident at the highest level in government. The North West Development Agency (NWDA) has also made outstanding progress to close our funding gap, finding in the region of£70m extra since we launched the RAZ proposals in October.

'By getting the government to sign up as a partner to RAZ, Cumbria and the NWDA have achieved a real coup. Now we can move forward together on a whole series of measures, working in a much more collaborative and effective way to get real results for the people for Cumbria.

'Although the government's ability to commit specific longer term funds is constrained, what we have secured is a lasting commitment to Cumbria's regeneration at the highest level.'

Note

1. The Rural Action Zone proposals:

- Demonstrate that Cumbria is a special case requiring special solutions

- Facilitate local changes to agriculture and tourism to allow for their long term sustained recovery, and lobby nationally on these issues

- Provide a framework to enable people, communities and businesses to identify and implement proposals to rebuild a sustainable economy

- Gain freedoms to tackle economic, environmental and social issues in new and imaginative ways

- Provide an example for rural change in the UK

2. The Rural Action Zone proposals have been costed at approximately£264m. The£240m currently identified comes from a wide range of funding streams and made up broadly of 55% European Funding and45% UK funding.

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