My presentation read as follows:
Whilst the future direction of the Levelling Up agenda is somewhat unknown at present, as we transition between governments, what is clear is that the conversation triggered by the phrase “levelling up” will remain a focus for us all regardless of what Liz Truss’s administration does next.
The central principle; that the UK needs to redress the balance of power, is now something that all political parties are debating and taking a view on – and quite rightly so. It is clear to see a commitment; from government departments, from funders, from infrastructure bodies in our own sector is needed to ensure that those communities and regions that were previously left behind receive targeted support to level up in future.
In terms of answering the question, have rural communities been forgotten? I would say that they cannot be forgotten. It is clear that if Levelling Up is to succeed then a result of this should be that no one is disadvantaged by where they live – and that includes those living in the countryside.
An added but long-standing battle facing those living rural areas, is the misrepresentation of the “rural idyll”. Too many people assume that living in the countryside is only for affluent people, and that the residents that live there aren’t facing the same kind of challenges as those living in more built up and urban areas.
Even in our world of work, the community-owned businesses supported by Plunkett Foundation are sometimes misrepresented by others as ‘hobby projects’ of a wealthy, middle class – completely ignoring the transformative impact these businesses are playing in their community. The ownership of an asset; be it a pub, shop, woodland, library, sports building or any other facility is not in itself the main ambition of the army of volunteers behind these community projects. It is what happens within the assets, or by using these assets for local benefit once they are in community-ownership where the real impact truly exists.
In answering the question about whether rural communities have been forgotten in this moment, I broke my presentation up in to four areas, as follows.