19 December 2023
Fair Funding Relief for Rural Areas – Campaign

We all know that small businesses are the backbone of our local Norfolk economy. However, as I visit High Street shops and local businesses across the 5 towns and 114 villages of the Mid Norfolk constituency - from pubs to light manufacturing companies, and having run my own small business here in Norfolk before standing for Parliament, it’s clear to me that the cost of living crisis is hitting our local small businesses especially hard. 

A key reason for that is the extra costs of doing business in a rural area like ours where the necessity of extra heating and travel affect both customers and businesses in a “double whammy” with consumers having less disposable income and businesses facing higher costs. 

(That’s why every Friday / Saturday I try and make sure I visit a local business to keep up to date – and why I highlight local businesses via my ‘Backing Local Businesses’ page on my website here)


It’s why I campaigned hard in the run-up to the Autumn Statement for the Chancellor to focus the November budget measures on:

  • Business Tax Cuts focussed on businesses and lower paid workers, rather than the rich
  • Relief for the hospitality sector.  Specific support that has been announced for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, which provides a lifeline for rural areas reliant on tourism, with relief rates raised from 50% to 75% up to £110,000, and for small businesses losing eligibility for relief whose increase in annual bills will be capped at £600.
  • Relief for employer’s NI contributions (a major cost for employers and potentially prohibitive for small businesses) 
  • Ongoing welfare reforms to reduce (and now STOP) benefits for those who CAN work but choose not to accept job offers available at the Job Centre
  • Protection of the capital budget, meaning no change to current plans to continue the rollout of the better broadband and 5G connections that are so vital for rural businesses and households
  • The continuation of levelling-up funding that I, along with countryside groups, have consistently argued must account fully for rural needs.
  • The increase in energy bill support for households not connected to the gas grid, with the payment to those reliant on alternative fuels doubling to £200 and additional payments made available for the most vulnerable.
  • The energy price guarantee continuing beyond April, although with the level increased from £2,500 to £3,000, offers some further respite from escalating costs. Energy efficiency is a particular headache in rural areas, which often suffer from an older, draughtier housing stock. I would expect the newly announced Energy Efficiency Taskforce to pay particular attention to these dwellings and the Government to prioritise them when allocating grants.
  • The announcement of a 5-year, £13.6 billion transition fund and in the freezing of the rates multiplier in 2023-24.

But with the war in Ukraine causing ongoing energy and fuel price pressure and inflation, and ongoing labour shortages and low disposable incomes in rural areas like ours, I think we are going to have to go further. 

Too often rural areas get overlooked in Whitehall with too many policies designed for cities and urban communities. 

Our villages, towns, high streets and local businesses face far higher costs. 

So in the run up to the Spring Budget, I will be launching a Fair Funding Relief for Rural Areas campaign to push the Chancellor and Treasury to go further to help hard-hit local businesses and self-employed who are the backbone of the long term prosperity of rural areas like ours.  

If YOU would be interested to hear more and/or are happy to support me in this work, please simply reply “YES” and I’ll make sure you receive further direct updates on this campaign in the new year.