Guy Garrod, Director of the Centre for Rural Economy, writes this blog following an invitation to meet with the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street on Monday 10th October. The meeting was to discuss the challenges facing rural communities. Attending were (l-r) Guy Garrod, Dr Neil Powe, Professor Mark Shucksmith and Rhona Pringle.
This blog has kindly been shared by CRE. It first appeared:
A big challenge for any research centre that specialises in the applied social sciences, is to make sure that their findings reach the relevant people in the policy and practice community. Imagine my excitement when last week I received an invitation from the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit to visit No 10 to discuss the challenges facing rural communities, and what more Government could be doing to support rural areas. It seemed that our recent policy document ‘Reimagining the Rural’ has dropped onto some influential desks in Westminster.
So yesterday afternoon, a team of four CRE researchers braved driving rain and over-running track repairs to present ourselves at the Whitehall entrance of Downing Street clutching dripping umbrellas and photo IDs. Having cleared the airport-style security we were left alone to walk the short distance up to the famous black door and ring the doorbell, as if No 10 was any house and not the home of Britain’s most powerful politician and workplace for over 100 people.
Up a stone staircase lined with engravings and photographs of Past prime Ministers we were ushered into the Thatcher Room, an imposing book-lined room dominated by Richard Stone’s portrait of Lady Thatcher which hangs over the fireplace. Our discussions took place around the elm table crafted for the 2013 G8 summit in County Fermanagh but this time rather than Obama, Merkel, Putin and Cameron discussing global issues like the Middle-East and international trade, Shucksmith, Pringle, Garrod and Powe outlined the importance of policies that could help unlock the full economic and social potential of rural areas.
It was reassuring to learn that the PM is very serious about understanding the needs of rural communities and businesses and that he is committed to improving the offer that a future government can make to the rural economy. Market towns, rural businesses, community development and energy were all high on the agenda, as was the need to avoid a two-speed countryside and to ensure the effective exchange of knowledge and expertise across the sector. We hope that our message was clear, that it will inform policy and ultimately that it will make a difference to rural areas across the UK.
After our time was up, we lingered outside No 10 taking photos of ourselves on the doorstep and behaving like star-struck sightseers on a day out to the big smoke. Our bubble was burst when Michael Gove emerged from the front door in an unintentional attempt to photobomb CRE’s awfully big adventure.