The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 24th May 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to close the 18 per cent productivity gap in rural areas.
Lord Benyon (Con): Latest statistics show rural areas in England contributed over £260 billion to our economy in 2019. There are over half a million businesses registered in rural areas.
There are many successful rural businesses, providing high levels of employment, and vital supply chains. However, we know that productivity in some rural areas has fallen behind other parts of the country.
We are determined to help rural areas fulfil their full economic potential. The Government is committed to helping rural communities and businesses as we level up every region and nation of the UK, boosting productivity and spreading opportunity. We have announced over £2.6 billion through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
Defra will set out later this year its plans to replace EU funding for LEADER and the growth programme elements of the Rural Development Programme for England and is working closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make sure there are synergies with UKSPF, while reflecting rural needs.
We are already providing funding to put in place the infrastructure that rural areas need to boost their potential. We are investing £5 billion so hard-to-reach areas can get gigabit speeds and have already upgraded 600,000 premises. The Government-led £1 billion Shared Rural Network will also roll out fast and reliable 4G coverage to 95 per cent of UK landmass.