Call for more support for rural firms impacted by Covid-19

Rural campaigners have urged the government to announce 'rural proofed' support packages
Rural campaigners have urged the government to announce 'rural proofed' support packages

Calls have been made for the government to issue out 'rural proofed' support for businesses in the countryside impacted by the coronavirus.

Some rural firms risk being 'missed out' in government support packages, the Countryside Alliance has warned.

In a written submission of evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, the group said rural businesses 'in their nature differ considerably' to those in urban areas.

They therefore need 'rural proofed' packages to help support them as the virus spreads in the UK.

The campaign group argues that many rural businesses are in the hospitality and leisure sectors, but in some instances there are firms that may not be identified as part of the leisure sector, and therefore would not be eligible for support.

For example, racing stables in the horse racing industry have been told they are not eligible for government support.

The situation is also unclear for livery yards and kennel which like racing stables have been hit hard by the current crisis, the Countryside Alliance explained.

The government has been urged to carry out an assessment of those businesses classified as part of the leisure sector.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “The government must clarify what businesses qualify for support. For example, it is suggested racing stables, despite being valued by the Valuation Office Agency as a leisure business, are not eligible.

"To complicate the situation there is a discrepancy between how each respective Local Authority view certain businesses depending on their activities related to sport, and whether that activity is defined as a leisure activity.

"This means that some businesses will be eligible for support and some will not be because of where that business is situated."

He added: "There must be no discrepancy in how Local Authorities treats and views leisure businesses related to sport. Rural businesses need clarity on how they are viewed and treated, and support needs to be made available to them.

"In all cases, these businesses have been significantly impacted due to Covid-19."