Although his findings were positive on the whole, there were also a string of recommendations that Lord Cameron put forward to the Government.
Lord Cameron noted a ‘renewed emphasis on rural proofing at very senior levels in Government’ however this doesn’t necessarily mean that it was being given the time of day by everyone in policy-making.
As part of his Review, he conducted a investigation into the Impact Assessments made by departments between the years of 2010 and 2014. These assessments are made to add rigour to the development of policies, they are an important first step in appraising the various options and choices that policy maker must choose between early in decision making.
Although some government departments were found to be considering Rural Proofing at this early stage in the process, there were a worryingly large portion of IAs assessed that made no attempt to even consider the impact on Rural Areas at all.
Lord Cameron found that:
51% if all Impact Assessments showed no consideration of rural proofing – even when the policy would directly impact rural areas.
Over a a third ‘described rural issues’ but didn’t analyse the policy impact.
A paltry 11% provided good evidence on rural proofing and how the evidence had been used to inform the policy in question.
It would appear that a ‘Tick Box’ mentality had been applied, in many cases, to the matter of Rural Proofing – where ministers were acknowledging it, but not referring to it withing the guidance set forward.
In response to this disheartening news, Lord Cameron put forward 6 recommendations to improve the Government’s incorporation of Rural Proofing in policy-making:
1) Defra Ministers should work with Cabinet Office to strengthen and improve rural proofing guidance when the impact of policies is being assessed
By creating more synergy between these two departments, we can ensure that rural policy impacts are given clear and robust attention. Rural proofing must be applied more systematically in Departments and described more openly and transparently.
2) Defra Ministers should establish an Inter-Departmental Rural Oversight group
It would bring together all the main Departments, at a senior level, to discuss particular/topical rural issues and identify where policies or delivery could be adjusted.
3) Defra, with support and input from other government departments, should develop a Rural Proofing Forum.
Working closely with the inter Departmental Rural Oversight Group to share best practice, information and key messages across government.
4) All government departments should adopt the use of Office of National Statistics and government wide urban/rural classifications in their analyses of data and evidence.
With support from Defra on statistical analyses as required. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/rural-urban-definition
5) A clear rural proofing stage should be built into the collective agreement processes
Departments will have to explain their rural proofing measures in their policy considerations, taking rural proofing seriously earlier in the policy process if they want to avoid delays in the clearance process.
6) The creation of a permanent forum for discussion of rural proofing, at Cabinet level