The Government is determined to maximize the economic potential of rural communities and businesses. The Rural Economy Growth Review was announced last week and sets out a £165 million package of measures, including cutting red tape, to further support rural communities.
These measures include the creation of Rural and Farming Networks, which will ensure that rural businesses will have a hotline to the heart of Government, allowing them to directly shape future rural policies. Networks will bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries.
Each group will be a point of contact providing feedback to Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) on a range of topics including the impact of local emergencies – such as flooding - so that the right kind of assistance can be provided to keep businesses running.
Last week, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were among the first fourteen new rural networks set-up by the Government to identify and feedback local issues and concerns straight to the heart of Government. Cllr Bert Biscoe is the first Chairman of this new network in Cornwall and I wish him and the team well in this vitally important work.
It was a great pleasure to take Chris Grayling MP, Minister for Employment to meet with staff at Truro Job Centre Plus, and at Work Programme providers Working Links and Ground Work South West; organizations that provide one-to-one help for people to look for work and get into work. We heard first hand, from people of all ages who have been out of work for some time, about how the Work Programme is helping them to secure full time employment.
We also met young people who were very positive about the work experience they had experienced with a wide range of local employers. More than 50% of young people who have undertaken the Government’s scheme have found full-time jobs with more than 60% with the firm that gave them the work experience.
Also last week I supported the Water Bill that will enable a £50 rebate on every SW Water domestic water bill starting next April. The unfairness of water bills in Cornwall has been raised for many years but this is the first time a Government has taken real action. The Bill also includes further financial and other assistance for the hardest pressed and vulnerable households in the region.
I will continue to push Ministers to consider extending the rebate to very small businesses such as B& Bs and tackle the problems experienced by people who occupy sheltered accommodation or live in houses of multiple occupancy that share one unmetered water bill. People living in these types of home can apply for an “assessed charge” which can lead to significantly reduced bills, but few do.