Rural report criticises government

THE Government is still not doing enough to provide affordable homes and broadband in rural Suffolk, a report has revealed.Downing Street officials claimed last year that they would 'rural proof' their policies, ensuring that rural communities did not miss out on vital services, schemes and developments.

THE Government is still not doing enough to provide affordable homes and broadband in rural Suffolk, a report has revealed.

Downing Street officials claimed last year that they would 'rural proof' their policies, ensuring that rural communities did not miss out on vital services, schemes and developments.

But a report Rural Proofing in 2002/2003 - A Report to Government by The Countryside Agency released yesterday states that, despite some progress being made over the past 12 months, the Government is still falling short.

The provision of affordable housing and broadband in rural communities were highlighted as particular areas where improvement is needed.


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Richard Spring, MP for West Suffolk, backed the Countryside Agency report and said the government was being unfair to the people of the county.

He said: "My view is that there's a continuing problem with fairness. This government is totally obsessed with urban Britain at the expense of rural Britain which is why, in Suffolk for example, we have people paying huge council tax bills for little or no improvement in services."

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Mr Spring called for more flexibility on housing arrangements, especially for first-time buyers.

He added: "At the heart of this is the continuing starvation of resources from an area like Suffolk and a continued failure by the county council to stand up for the people of the county."

He added: "I have tried very hard to make sure that areas which do not have broadband get access to it and I will continue to press for that. I do not want to see a situation where speedy access to the internet is denied to people simply because they live in rural Suffolk areas."

David Ruffley, MP whose constituency includes Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, said: "I put several questions to Stephen Timms, the broadband minister at the Department of Trade and Industry, asking about broadband in rural Suffolk and the response I got was very negative.

"The Government does not have a policy and has effectively washed its hands of it, putting responsibility on suppliers like BT and NTL.

"But, whilst the Government is doing nothing, I would suggest the suppliers are doing next to nothing, only one village in my constituency actually knows how many people need to sign up before BT will consider giving them broadband.

"Unless we get moving now the world will pass us by – broadband will soon be an absolutely vital requirement."

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