On 24th November 2015 Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty’s Government “what proposals they have for strengthening the role and powers of town and parish councils, particularly as part of the northern powerhouse.” The Bishop of St Albans asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the northern powerhouse has great potential to bring social and economic benefit to many people, but it is fundamental from the very start that we embed it in the rural communities. Micro-businesses employing fewer than 10 people make a very significant contribution to the rural economy, yet previous approaches to regional development tended to ignore or sideline the rural dimension of it. Will the noble Lord the Minister assure the House that, with the northern powerhouse and other devolved areas, there will be a specific, focused and relevant approach to providing resources for small rural businesses?
Baroness Williams of Trafford: My Lords, I am getting quite fond of the right reverend Prelate calling me “the noble Lord the Minister” and I take no offence whatever. He is absolutely right, and he has brought up the point about rural communities before. Of course, in many areas where we see devolution, we see rural communities. Most authorities—in Greater Manchester, for example—have rural areas such as Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport and even Trafford, so rural communities are very important. He is absolutely right to point out that they should not be left behind, and, with some of the strengthened powers that central government has given them, they should be able to achieve this.