OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011

image of OECD Rural Policy Reviews: England, United Kingdom 2011

Rural England plays a significant role in the economy of the United Kingdom, but an even larger social and cultural role. And it is unique among OECD regions, in that it is geographically compact, with rural inhabitants generally no more than a half hour’s drive from an urban area. There is thus a vast amount of interaction between rural and urban populations in England.

England’s rural population is, on average, doing better than the urban population across a broad range of socio-economic indicators. Nevertheless, rural England is also struggling with pockets of poverty and social exclusion, difficulties in maintaining access to high quality public services, an ageing population, and, most importantly, a widespread shortage of affordable housing.

The government has adopted mainstreaming as its rural policy strategy. The objective of mainstreaming is to ensure that people in rural England have access to the same policies and programmes as those available in urban England. While mainstreaming is an attractive policy approach, especially in a country with strong rural-urban interactions such as England, it has proved challenging to implement for different reasons. This report examines the mainstreaming policy response as applied to rural England and suggests ways to increase its effectiveness.

The report will interest academics and policy makers alike as it includes a discussion on governance structures and decentralisation; delivering public services; economic development; and the importance of improving connectivity in the context of rural areas.  While the focus is on rural England, other OECD member countries will also benefit from the insights provided.



England's Rural Policy and Governance Mechanisms

Understanding rural policy in the English context requires analysing: 1) the evolution of rural policy in England, and 2) considering the overall approach to rural policy today, including governance and financial mechanisms, as well as stakeholders. Accordingly, this chapter focuses on policy responses to the rural challenges in England identified in chapter one, that led to mainstreaming as the rural policy approach currently in place in England. The evolution of rural policy in England, the policies, and the institutional frameworks underpinning the design and delivery of rural policy are discussed. The chapter is structured as follows: the first section sets out, in three phases, an abridged historical timeline of rural policy development and the transition from a rural policy that is “linked” to agricultural policy to one that is both separated and more “mainstreamed”. The subsequent two sections discuss the mainstreaming policy approach at the national and the subnational levels along with identifying key actors and mechanisms. The fourth section analyses the financial framework associated with rural policy. Finally, as changes in housing policy and spatial planning greatly impact rural areas, key developments in this regard are considered separately in a last section.


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