A NEW strategy which aims to ensure Government policy does not disadvantage rural areas has been welcomed by one of the region's MPs.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss recently announced that ministers will now have to ensure specific needs of the countryside are taken into account when making decisions, in a bid to “rural proof” Whitehall policy.

A newly appointed rural ambassador and a ministerial task force are working to ensure departments consider the impact of policy on the countryside.

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Last year, the Rural Services Network warned that public services in rural areas were suffering under funding formulas for local authorities.

The body, which represent more than 200 countryside organisations, said rural councils on average had about £100 per head less to spend compared to urban councils. It called for sparsity of population – and how difficult it was to deliver services such as waste collections and social care in rural areas – to be given sufficient consideration.

In recent years, emergency services such as fire services in North Yorkshire and County Durham have been particularly badly hit by a funding formula calculated according to population, not the extra resources needed to cover large geographical areas.

The move to “rural proof” Government policy has been welcomed by Richmondshire MP Rishi Sunak, who is a member of the rural affairs select committee and has previously pressed ministers and Whitehall officials on the issue.

He said: “This move will ensure that all Government departments make the countryside a routine priority and will have to consider the impact of existing and proposed policies on those who live in rural Britain.

“It means the specific needs of the countryside will have to be addressed by ministers and Government officials to ensure good opportunities for rural residents.”