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Country News - 2002

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Mixed reception for Brown's spending review
Tuesday 16 July

YESTERDAY'S public spending review by Chancellor Gordon Brown - hailed in parts of the media as the biggest giveaway for 50 years - received only a cautious welcome from organisations interested in rural affairs.

Extra billions were given to schools, hospitals and transport but, to some observers, new funds targeted at rural renewal fell well below expectations - a "mere drop in the ocean," as one Country Landowners' and Business Association (CLA) said on BBC radio this morning.

In its official response, the CLA pointed out that the extra £200 million a year for regeneration and environmental schemes in the years 2005/6, was only 40% of the £500 million recommended in the Curry Commission, set up to guide future countryside policy in the wake of the foot and mouth disaster.

"It is also critical for the future of the rural economy that the Government takes up the Curry Commission's wider recommendations, to help farmers secure a better return from the marketplace, to help their marketing and enable them to develop their businesses into new enterprises," said CLA president Sir Edward Greenwell.

The National Farmers' Union was even more circumspect. President Ben Gill, who farms near Easingwold, took a "wait and see" attitude but also pressed DEFRA to go ahead with implementing other plans in the Curry report to help farmers market their produce more profitably.

And the Council for the Protection of Rural England, whilst welcoming the Chancellor's plans to pump extra billions in to the Housing Corporation to provide more affordable "social housing" warned that such housing should only be built in urban areas not in country villages.

"Extra money will help deliver much-needed social housing but it must be used to underpin urban generation. Otherwise, it will only fuel further Greenfield sprawl and community opposition," said CPRE assistant director Neil Sinden.

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