FEBRUARY 10, 2009: England’s rural businesses will be vital in helping the country throughtough economic times, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has said.

The Minister made the comments as he announced plans to bring together the Commission for Rural Communities and the Regional Development Agencies, which will investigate the impacts of the recession on rural areas, and whether additional help might be needed.According to statistics, there are one million rural businesses – a quarter of all businesses in England – providing work to more than 5.5million people, providing a combined turnover of more than �300billion a year. Countryside businesses are also more likely than their urban counterparts to sell to the nation as a whole, and export to international markets.‘Rural businesses play a vital role in our economy, and they will be even more important in future,’ he said.‘The recession is making life hard for many communities and businesses. That’s just as true of rural communities as it is of our towns and cities. The government’s job is to continue to do what we can to help – on bank lending, on support to businesses, and assistance for those who lose their jobs or who are worried about losing their homes and what the future holds.’The Defra Secretary also pledged government support for rural communities and businesses, which have diversified and grown in recent years. Out of a total �3.9billion in the Rural Development Programme for England, �600million will be used to support economic and social investment. ‘I will do everything in my power to ensure that the rural economy is at the heart of the decisions we take in government as we steer a course through the recession,’ Mr Benn continued.‘And that rural businesses are able to benefit fully from the help that government is making available.’  

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