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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Ministers 'break' countryside promises
Rural demonstrators hold placards protesting against government policy
Protests: Ministers have faced rural pressure
The government has broken its promise to ensure that rural areas benefit from new policies, according to its advisers on the countryside.

Its Rural White Paper pledged to ensure all departments would take account of the needs of those in the countryside when making policy.

There are severe shortcomings in many departments

Ewen Cameron
Countryside Agency
And the government asked the Countryside Agency to monitor how this "rural proofing" was working.

But 18 months later, in its first report on the exercise, the agency says government policymakers are still not "thinking rural".

Affordable housing

It says most government departments have taken initial steps - but only half have done more than the bare minimum.

And much of rural England has yet to see any difference, according to agency chairman Ewen Cameron.

His organisation says more than one in five people in England live in the countryside.

They remain worried about the shortage of affordable housing, continuing post office and magistrates' courts closures, problems accessing health care, difficulties with public transport and bureaucracy, according to the agency.

Ministers 'on notice'

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There are severe shortcomings in many departments."

The Department of Trade and Industry had been late in introducing "rural proofing" for their policies, as had the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

Mr Cameron said there were signs that change was now coming but the agency would make sure that improvement continued.

"We are putting the government on notice that we expect and want to see some tangible outcomes on the ground within two years," he added.

Countryside Agency chairman, Euan Cameron
"There are severe shortcomings in many departments"
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