Rural business groups have welcomed Chancellor Sajid Javid’s pledges on infrastructure, including £5 billion for digital connectivity.
Mr Javid committed to improving fast broadband access in harder to reach parts of the UK as well as money to improve roads and transport at this week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said investing in the country’s infrastructure would help equip farming businesses with services which were ‘desperately needed’.
He said: “Issues such as poor provision of broadband and mobile coverage, lack of public transport and a need for an improved transport network are increasing priorities which impact on farming families and their businesses.”
He added with so much uncertainty, farmers needed as much support as possible to improve productivity, maintain business resilience and ensure they can remain competitive.
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne told a Countryside Alliance fringe meeting at this week’s conference: “This announcement to get to the last 20 per cent is really welcome and will have a huge impact on improving access to services in rural areas, not least because under the Government’s digital initiative, all Government services will be delivered digitally over the next five years.”
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said better connectivity was the key to unleashing the economic potential of the countryside.
“Ending the digital divide will support rural businesses to create jobs, enable people to access services, allow agriculture to embrace the technological revolution and persuade more tourists to visit,” he said.
Federation for Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry called for extra support following Mr Javid’s signal to raise the living wage to two thirds of the average median income by 2024, as well as proposals to drop the age eligibility from 25 to 21.
Mr Cherry said it was welcome businesses would have five years to adapt but could make some small firms ‘unviable’.
He also called for any drop in age eligibility for the national living wage to be gradual as a sudden drop was ‘a real threat’ to jobs and the economy.