Productivity: Rural Areas

Part of RAF Valley: Funding and Employment – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Simon Baynes Simon Baynes Conservative, Clwyd South 5:05 pm, 14th October 2020

I am very proud that in Clwyd South, my constituency on the Welsh borders, we have achieved the first universal service obligation in Wales, but it has been hard work and, as other hon. Members have mentioned, there is much more to be done. There are real problems with BT Openreach. We must make sure that the £5 billion investment that has been promised by the UK Government gets into the system, and that we can untangle a lot of the problems. Yes, we have made progress, but there is more work to be done.

The second area where we can improve rural productivity is by devolving as many powers as possible locally. I was a county councillor, a town councillor and mayor of my rural town before I became an MP, so I have had practical experience of trying to improve rural areas. In Clwyd South, Wrexham County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council made many of the key decisions affecting rural life, from roads and housing to schools and local facilities. Sometimes we forget that many of the levers to achieve what we want to achieve lie at the local level.

Finally, I emphasise that in rural areas the proportion of small and medium-sized businesses is much higher than in urban areas. Therefore, policies that bolster those businesses are extremely important, particularly the availability of office and workshop space. That is a major problem in many rural areas and we need to create the planning conditions that allow for that, combined, as other hon. Members have mentioned, with improved provision of skills, training and apprenticeships.