Labour sets out ambition to “be the party of the great British countryside” as data shows Conservative cuts to cost rural England a quarter of a billion this year alone
New data released by the Labour Party shows that rural England is projected to lose more than £255 million this year alone, pushing family farms to the brink of closure as a result of the Government’s rushed withdrawal of the Basic Payments Scheme for farmers.
The party’s analysis, based on figures from the Rural Payments Agency, lays bare the scale of impact on rural economies by what Labour say is the Government’s ‘reckless approach’ to the scheme. The move could risk as many as 9500 agricultural jobs.
Labour supports the principle of reforming farm payments, but has spoken out about the Government’s decisions which are leading to a cliff edge, with 76 per cent of farmers saying the new payments won’t be enough.
The new environmental land management payment schemes – intended to replace the current Basic Payments Scheme – are still being designed, tested and piloted, with no plans for replacement payments being available until 2022/23 at the earliest.
Labour has joined the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in calling for an urgent review of this policy.
The Party’s vocal opposition on this matter comes as Labour launches their Rural England Policy Review, which was announced by leader Sir Keir Starmer in a February speech to the NFU.
The past decade of Conservative government has weakened the foundations of rural communities, with funding for transport and health services cut and community hubs such as village shops, post offices and pubs allowed to close.
Labour’s Review will seek evidence on all of this and more, cementing Labour’s ambition to become the natural home for rural voters.
Labour’s Shadow Defra Secretary, Luke Pollard MP, commented:
“Farm payments need reform, but it is extraordinary to take a quarter of a billion pounds out of the rural economy this year alone, risking as many as 9500 jobs and pushing family farms to the brink.
“The Government needs to get a grip on this, review it, and provide the security that our rural communities desperately need as they recover and rebuild.
“Labour’s Rural England Policy Review will ensure that our next manifesto provides as much hope and opportunity to rural communities as it does to those living in towns and cities.”