The WLGA Rural Forum, comprising the nine rural local authorities from across Wales, is calling on the UK and Welsh Governments to ensure Wales’ rural communities are not left behind post-Brexit.
Leaders of these authorities met at the WLGA Rural Forum in Llandrindod Wells on Wednesday 6th of June. The forum has the democratic mandate to speak on behalf of Wales’ rural communities who often play “second fiddle” in the devolved settlement in Wales. The forum intends to work with these communities to make the overwhelming case for more resources, better transport, affordable homes and economic regeneration.
Above all, we are calling for guaranteed funding arrangements post Brexit to ensure that our rural communities are not left behind. There were clear promises given before the referendum and the time looms for Westminster politicians to honour these. This is not just about the problems in the agriculture sector with the ending of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but also the lack of meaningful employment and homes for young people, the skills agenda and the fact that across parts of rural Wales the digital backdrop is primitive particularly in terms of broadband connectivity. While some communities relish the prospect of 5G, others still await 3G technology.
Members of the WLGA Rural Forum have agreed to press the UK and Welsh Governments on the following key issues:
- Seeking urgent clarification on the nature of the UK Government’s Guarantee for all current EU Funding Programmes in Wales.
- Seeking urgent clarification on replacement EU funding for Rural Economic Development, Skills and Employment.
- Pressing both UK and Welsh Governments for local government input into the development of key UK Frameworks, and other legislative arrangements, that will govern key areas of local government responsibilities as the UK exits the EU (e.g. in relation to Trading and Environmental Standards).
- Exploring a Sector Deal for Rural Wales aligned to the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy and complementing the 4 City and Growth Deals across Wales.
- Identifying those key areas of activity where all Rural Local Authorities work together to address common issues and challenges e.g. in relation to the Skills and Digital agendas.
- Identifying innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities facing Rural Wales.
- Providing an influential and honest voice for Rural Wales to raise the profile of rural issues within each of the 4 Regions across Wales and within Welsh government.
Cllr Rosemarie Harris (Powys), WLGA Joint Rural Affairs Spokesperson and Joint Chair of the WLGA Rural Forum said:
“There will be a persistent focus on pressing the case so that all decision-makers in both the Welsh and UK Governments fully understand the challenges and opportunities facing Rural Wales. These communities have been ignored for too long. We will start with engaging with the new National Assembly’s Cross-Party Assembly Members Rural Group, and engaging with key rural stakeholders and partners across Wales, the UK and Europe.”
Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn (Gwynedd), WLGA Joint Rural Affairs Spokesperson and Joint Chair of the WLGA Rural Forum said:
“As local authority Leaders we are heavily involved in City Deals and Growth Deals across Wales. We’re also are responsible for the rural communities in our areas and our regional development plans need to encompass them alongside our urban communities. The recent WLGA Rural Forum expressed serious concerns, in particular, over the current uncertainty regarding future funding for rural development and skills. In order to plan ahead effectively we need to know what arrangements and funding will be in place after the UK leaves the EU.”
WLGA Members will have an opportunity to contribute to the discussion on the plans for a re-invigorated Rural Forum during a workshop session at the WLGA Annual Conference on Thursday 28th of June. A Report will be tabled at the WLGA AGM meeting on Friday 29th of June outlining the new focus of the Rural Forum and a Statement of Intent will be developed capturing key asks, targeted at both the UK and Welsh Governments.