The LEP works closely with Community First Oxfordshire (CFO) to develop the Strategic Environmental Economic Impact Plan (SEEIP). CFO is one of 38 Rural Community Councils in England. They provide a range of services to help communities help themselves. These include: Community-led Planning, Neighborhood Planning, advice to village halls and shops, support for Community Transport Groups and for Dementia friendly communities.
Why Rural Matters:
Nationally, 9.5m people live in rural areas and rates of rural economic growth and entrepreneurship are above the national average. 70% of the rural workforce work in small and micro enterprises. Many of these have growth potential. There are high rates of rural business formation and rural micro businesses are often very productive. Even in the economic downturn, 43% were looking to expand. Many sectors are growing in rural areas; manufacturing; professional, scientific and technical; accommodation anf food services; and wholesale and retail. A dynamic rural economy is contributing to national growth; rural businesses contribute £400bn pa (19% of GVA).
Yet policy rests on the myth that growth is driven only by cities. Research suggests rural micro businesses can be incubators for growth if given proper support. Many are home-based and have fewer employees bu display higher profits and have higher broadband use. They would benefit from the right planning policies, shared facilities at enterprise hubs, fast broadband, help with recruitment, better business advice, tax rate simplification, and access to specialist business support.
The rural economy needs support. At present, no Minister or agency coordinates rural policy. There is also concern about the lack of 'rural-roofing' for policies dealing with, for example, schools funding, GPs funding, bus services support grants, welfare reforms and affordable housing. Without a sensible support framework, many rural communities will underachieve economically. Villages and towns will be less vibrant, local services may decline in some areas and communities will be less able to help themselves. So the rural economy matters and the CFO believes Oxfordshire needs to support it.
For more information about the CFO please visit: http://www.communityfirstoxon.org/about/