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10 Downing Street round table: Gravity request to rural businesses

10 Downing Street round table: Gravity request to rural businesses

At Gravity we are a small firm with two offices, one rural and one urban. The disparity between them on essential business services is really striking and so we are pleased to have been invited to share our experiences with the Government at a round table discussion at Number 10 Downing Street, planned for the 27 September 2018. But we know we are not alone in wanting to raise key issues that affect the operational performance of our rural business, so we would like to be your mouthpiece too.

Our Downing Street round table invite arrived because we are a member of the Rural Business Group, thanks to our success in 2017 when we were named Best Rural Creative or Media Business at the Amazon-sponsored and DEFRA-supported, Rural Business Awards.

At the round table, we are going to raise three core issues that we think are key to building sustainable rural business communities – and we want you, our rural business colleagues, to let us know if there are issues affecting your business that are currently not on our list to raise, or if you have some solutions to these challenges that you’d like us to propose on your behalf.

We want to make the most of having Downing Street’s ear – in the form of by Niamh Mulholland, Business Relations Manager – so either let us know what is having a negative impact on your rural business, or what solutions you have for any of the issues affecting the countryside business community and we will raise them on your behalf, if you’d like us to.

We have already asked our rurally-based clients for their feedback and we would like to provide as many perspectives as possible. We can’t get you into the meeting, but we want to give every rural business the opportunity to be represented, if you’d like to share your concerns with us?

What we will be raising at 10 Downing Street:

Connectivity: We know this is such an obvious problem that we shouldn’t have to outline it, but its impact on our Bakewell office, and therefore our overall business, is significant. As many of you will know, the 2016 Ofcom broadband survey showed that internet speeds in rural areas were substantially slower than those in towns and cities, with most rural locations having speeds of 10MB or under, and that’s just not good enough for our business community – the 1/2m+ rural businesses that suffer as a consequence. Our Bakewell office has just had an ‘upgrade’ but it’s nowhere near as fast as our Derby site. Of course, the Government will counter with its pledges in the Broadband Delivery UK scheme, or perhaps the Local Full Fibre Networks programme, which has a pot of £95m that local authorities can bid for to support the rollout of full fibre connectivity across the UK. However, in reality, none of these initiatives are all encompassing or give enough focus to the rural marketplace, and they are certainly not either consistent or quick enough.

Transport links: Urban firms complain about potholes on their route to work, train delays and limited cycle lanes but, in contrast, our bus services continue to get cut, finding a rural train station is rare and the condition of our rural roads seem to be a worryingly low priority. This means staff struggle to reach us, having an impact on the skilled people that we can find to staff our businesses, cycling to work is a risky journey, HGV deliveries are often tricky with weight restrictions and poorly maintained roads and customers that choose to visit us will enjoy the scenery but not the poor signage.

Crime: A 2017 NFU Mutual Report noted that rural crime in 2016 cost Britain £39.2million and we are all well aware of the ongoing rise in rural crime with thousands of rural businesses being affected across the UK. The well organised gangs that now operate to specifically target rural businesses are commonplace and we want to see more action taken to both prevent crime and catch the perpetrators. As a service firm, some may believe we have less to lose than some, however, we are not immune. Some colleagues, a professional services SME in Staffordshire, were devastated by a break-in last year when every one of their computers was stolen, losing files that represented months and months of hard work; and I know that our clients in the countryside with livestock or machinery, live with the constant dread that today will be the morning they wake up and their livelihood will be on the line.

 

We have our own ideas about how we would like to see each of these issues addressed and if any rural business reading this would like us to raise any additional issues, or additional perspectives on these issues, on their behalf, please get in touch. We realise that there are only so many businesses that can fit round the table, however, we’d like to give all rural businesses the opportunity to metaphorically share our seat.

The round table will focus on the challenges that we are currently facing as rural businesses and explore thoughts and ideas about how we can address these challenges in order to have a real, sustainable impact on our rural communities – enabling us all to not only survive but to thrive. As I’ve mentioned, we were invited by the Rural Business Group and the Co-Founder of the Rural Business Awards and the Rural Business Group, Anna Price, says:

“Our view is that successful rural communities are underpinned by successful rural enterprise in all its forms. We are delighted to be able to share some of our success with other hard working rural businesses and give them the opportunity to be heard at the heart of Westminster. We look forward to a constructive and rewarding day.”