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Country News - 2003

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Rural policy: Whitehall must work harder

Tuesday 03 June 2003

WHITEHALL civil servants charged with "rural proofing" Government policies need to make "greater efforts" to achieve full potential, the Government's own Countryside Agency said today.

This amounts to a slap on the wrist for London-based bureaucrats because, says the agency, some local authorities and regional development agencies in country areas have made "the most promising start."

Rural proofing was announced in the wake of the foot and mouth tragedy, when the Government was under widespread attack for failing to understand the needs of rural areas. Civil servants were tasked with examining all new legislation to see if it needed tweaking to meet rural needs.

Last year, the Countryside Agency - which is rapidly establishing itself as a Government agency willing if necessary to bite the hand that feeds it - criticised Whitehall's slow start in introducing rural proofing.

In its report on progress since then, the agency today repeated some of its criticisms about Whitehall but praised some local authorities and regional development agencies which have started voluntary rural proofing programmes.

Says agency chairman Sir Ewen Cameron: "Rural proofing has progressed, albeit unevenly, but greater efforts are needed in many departments to have significant rural impact."


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