Rural communities have been left behind under the Tories and Lib Dems in Government. Average annual wages are over £4,500 lower than in urban areas and the gap between the two has grown by £1,000 since 2010. For too many workers the rural economy is characterised by low skill and insecure work. However hard people work, many don't earn enough to make ends meet. Family life is being squeezed as people juggle the demands of work and caring for their children. Public services that so many people rely on are under pressure, as services have been cut and standards have slipped.
The reality is that rural Britain has a Tory problem and the only solution is a Labour government.
The Conservatives will never be able to tackle the real challenges facing rural communities because they only stand for a privileged few at the top. Only Labour can stand up for rural communities because only Labour is committed to raising living standards, backing the rural economy and breaking from decades of centralisation in England by devolving new powers to our county regions - making sure our recovery extends beyond the City of London.
We'll raise living standards for people in rural communities by reforming the broken markets that people rely on most so that families and businesses get a fair deal. We'll build more affordable homes by strengthening requirements on developers to build affordable housing in rural areas and we'll bring the off-grid energy sector under the remit of the regulator for the first time.
We'll tackle the low-pay, low-skill economy by supporting small businesses that form the bedrock of the rural economy with over two thirds of the rural workforce employed by small and micro businesses. Over the last five years, too many of these businesses have found that rising costs and lack of government support are holding them back. Instead of cutting Corporation Tax again for the largest firms, we will cut and then freeze business rates for over 1.5million smaller business properties.
We'll also tackle low-pay in agriculture by putting right the damage done by the Tories' decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, replacing it with a new taskforce to tackle low pay and protect conditions for agricultural workers. We'll support our world-leading food and farming sector to generate better paid jobs and apprenticeships across the rural economy. We will put in place a long term strategy for the sector by reinstating the 'Food 2030' strategy while promoting the best of British produce and using government procurement to back British farmers. We will champion farming in the EU to get the best for our farmers instead of plunging the country into a chaotic two year referendum on our membership of the EU.
Our NHS, care services, schools, colleges and other public services make up the essential fabric of our country but under the Conservatives they are under threat. Labour will ensure that public services in rural areas are properly supported and that communities themselves are empowered to shape the design and delivery of services to better match local needs. The next Labour Government will break from decades of centralisation in England and devolve power to our county regions, giving communities the ability to shape the places they live.
Labour's plan for rural Britain is based on a simple truth: that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed. By raising living standards, tackling low pay and empowering people in rural areas to make decisions about their future the next Labour Government will build a new kind of economy, one that tackles the cost of living crisis and builds prosperity that can reach beyond our city regions.