Cllr Yvonne Atkinson, Labour
Cllr Yvonne Atkinson, Labour's lead on rural affairs

14 Jan 2021 

A motion on “rural proofing” Devon County Council (DCC)’s policies, from Labour’s Cllr Yvonne Atkinson (Alphington and Cowick division), Labour’s lead on rural affairs came before the Cabinet on Wednesday 13th January.

The motion sought to make challenges and opportunities faced by rural Devon integral to policymaking, with Cllr Atkinson saying she tabled it because “ Devon is being left behind by the Tories as they concentrate on the Red wall in the North.” A Rural impact assessment from the outset, including engagement with rural stakeholders, means “the needs of rural communities will become  transparent and would demonstrate whether government or local  policies address the needs of rural communities and rural economies like Devon.”

Cabinet members voted in favour of using Labour’s “Notice of Motion” to guide its response to a promised Government report on rural proofing. A briefing prepared by officers noted that rural England faces new challenges and opportunities from EU Exit, declining farm profitability, changing consumer and live/work patterns, an ageing population, housing affordability, access to services, training provision, banking and high speed broadband in certain areas, climate change and new technology.

The briefing noted rural opportunities in environmental, agri-tech, energy and digital sectors, and strong economic interplay between neighbouring rural, urban and coastal areas. The Government has yet to announce how Devon’s EU structural funding will be replaced, and officers’ briefing called for any new monitoring and assessment duties for DCC to be accompanied by the necessary Government funding for an “equitable result in terms of funding for Devon and its residents and businesses”. Devon’s funding from Government does not address the “additional costs of service provision and difficulty of delivery in rural areas” it said, and the Government should “support fairer treatment in future funding settlements.

Speaking for the motion Labour group leader Cllr Rob Hannaford said he was content Labour’s motion would guide Devon’s response to Government, but Cllr Atkinson points out ”DCC does not have to wait for Government approval to carry out a rural  impact assessment and I urge DCC to make this a standard part of policy and decision making.”

About Devon Labour Party:
Councillor Yvonne Atkinson

For Immediate Release 16 January 2021
Contact: Liz Pole, Media Officer 07485 194 779


Webcast timecode 1:37

Notices of Motion and Briefing Reports pages 9-12

Lord Kimble’s 1 December 2020 Announcement on Rural Proofing Report


Cabinet RESOLVED that Council be recommended to:
(a) await the publication of the Government report and when this is issued, review accordingly and provide a Devon County Council response, using the Notice of Motion to help guide that response, seeking input from partner organisations and evidence where relevant, highlighting the rural opportunities and challenges across a number of service areas;
(b) note the issues previously identified by the Council that require addressing in relation to rural proofing; and
(c) to follow up, as appropriate, on any matters arising.

Notice of Motion: Rural Proofing Processes (Councillor Atkinson)

Given the government’s failure to fair fund rural Devon’s schools economy health services police and local government and to recognise the Great South West’s Industrial strategy this councils considers the Government needs comprehensively to rethink and reform the rural proofing process across Government, to ensure that relevant policies and legislation are attuned to the needs of rural communities and rural economies like Devon. This council considers a reformed approach to rural proofing should be introduced and take into account the following: · A rural assessment should take place at the start of the policy process, including engagement with rural stakeholders, and be treated as integral, rather than as an adjunct to urban-focused policy. No legislation should be brought forward without an accompanying rural assessment statement; · The impact of new policies on rural areas should be systematically and consistently monitored as they are implemented. This would include an update on the performance of rural proofing across government in the Government’s annual report on the implementation of the rural strategy; · All relevant public bodies including government, Devon County Council and the HoSW LEP should be required to rural proof, monitor and report annually on the rural impacts of relevant policies; · The Government should put in place the appropriate structures to facilitate a more robust rural proofing regime; and · Agrees to write to the Government and MPs across the SW and the LEP in response to this motion.

Briefing Note / Position Statement from the Head of Economy, Enterprise and Skills

Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, confirmed in Parliament on Tuesday 1st December 2020 that a report into rural proofing would be published shortly. A date for this release has yet to be announced. Philip Dunne MP and Member for Ludlow, who Chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Services, has called for such a study, so that government departments are truly aware of how rurality can impact the cost and impact of their policies. Mr Dunne stated: “As Chair of the APPG for Rural Services, we have called for years for the government to publish a report into rural proofing, to ensure that departments give real consideration to the impact of policies in rural areas. This commitment to publish shortly the first annual rural proofing report is welcome, and I look forward to reading how the government intends to put in place its levelling up agenda for rural areas.” Devon County Council (DCC) intends to provide comment to Government on this report and its content, which is currently unknown, when it is released and will use the Notice of Motion to help guide our response, along with input from Heads of Service and our evidence base on Devon and UK’s rural economy. With relation to UK Government spending, the Chancellor of the Exchequer separately announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review of 25th November 2020, that it is currently reviewing a number of funding mechanisms that affect regional spending including: · A £4bn Levelling Up Fund · UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) – to broadly replace certain EU funding mechanisms · Changes to agricultural payments · Refreshed Green Book guidance on how to assess potential investments, to help achieve the aim of addressing regional imbalances. This will be focused in particular on larger infrastructure project assessment and should benefit areas outside of London and the South East (particularly the North of England). ttachment_data/file/937700/Green_Book_Review_final_report_241120v2.pdf Although this refresh to the Green Book does not mention rural areas specifically, there has been a significant change to take greater account of a weighting towards projects that reflect impact of ‘levelling up’ by place and contribution to social value and carbon reduction. This specific place-based evaluation will allow us to get across our specific rural challenges in any business cases. Therefore if we are going to put effort into reflecting the rural premium this seems like more of a priority than rural proofing our own policies. We can also, as part of the rural proofing consultation, make these connections. The UK Government currently has in place a rural proofing process, dated 2017, to enable the assessment of impact of policies on rural areas, which we expect will also be reviewed as part of the anticipated report into rural proofing : hment_data/file/600450/rural-proofing-guidance.pdf Previously, DCC has identified a number of issues needing to be addressed, or for consideration by Government regarding rural proofing. These include: · Ensuring a Government wide, rather than DEFRA only, approach to rural proofing and taking account of rural impacts · Highlighting the range of rural businesses, including innovative, environmentally forward thinking and high-value businesses, to dispel the myth sometimes held that rural businesses are low value. This includes opportunities in the environmental, agri-tech, energy and digital sectors. · Taking into account the strong economic interplay between neighbouring rural, urban and coastal areas. The use of an arbitrary economic view of rural versus urban is often to miss the nuance and growth opportunities for UK PLC which our rural communities and business can offer. · Rural England faces new challenges and opportunities from, among others, EU Exit, declining farm profitability, changing consumer and live/work patterns, an ageing population, housing affordability, access to services, training provision, banking and high speed broadband in certain areas, climate change and new technology. In responding to the government’s report, we intend to revisit these issues in terms of new input, information and evidence. We will also use information from partner organisations, such as the National Farmers’ Union, the HotSW Growth Hub (business support provider), the Federation of Small Businesses, Visit Devon, the Rural Services Network, Devon Association of Local Councils and District Councils across Devon to help inform our response to the report when issued. Regarding the rural proofing and annual monitoring and reporting on our own policies, it is expected that there would be a cost involved to authorities outside of central Government who wish to annually measure the specific impacts of individual interventions on rural areas. DCC already reports on the rural economy and measures the impacts of interventions, relying on published datasets and can continue to do so. Should there be any additional burden placed upon Local Government in implementing rural proofing at the local and regional levels from this report, we intend to feed back the need for Government to fund this and/or ensure that duties placed upon local areas are not overly costly, onerous, or time consuming. It is unknown how the proposed changes to funding mechanisms, such as the replacement for EU structural funds with UKSPF funding, will affect Devon, or other predominantly rural areas. DCC will provide comment to Government and lobby where necessary, using an evidence-based approach in our aim to ensure an equitable result in terms of funding for Devon and its residents and businesses. We intend that any response that we make to Government will include highlighting the rural opportunities and challenges across a number of our service areas including education and learning, infrastructure, highways, the environment, communities, health and care and economy. We will also intend to highlight the need for recognition of the additional costs of service provision and difficulty of delivery in rural areas to support fairer treatment in future funding settlements.

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