Headlines: September 11th, 2009

The impact of the recession on market towns and rural communities in the Midlands will be highlighted at a meeting of rural and business leaders today. The meeting in Warwickshire will bring together more than 60 people from the East and West Midlands and their views will feed into a national summit planned for later this year.

Today’s meeting is the latest in a series organised by the Commission for Rural Communities in its study of the full impact of the recession on rural England and ways of driving business investment. Mark Pearce, Corporate Director for Economic Regeneration at Advantage West Midlands said: “These are tough times. The West Midlands is suffering more than any other region in this recession. In some of our market towns unemployment has risen by 50 per cent.”

He said a taskforce, led by the Regional Minister, Ian Austin, was focusing business support in market towns to help larger employers to retain jobs and build resilience. “These measures are above and beyond Advantage West Midlands’ current rural programme but it’s vital that we continue to listen to the businesses trading in the ‘front line’ of the recession and today’s summit will be an opportunity to do that,” Mr. Pearce added. Andrew Morgan, Skills and Communities Director at the East Midlands Development Agency, said the rural economy was an integral part of the region’s total economy and the agency had been working to ensure the grants and funding available reached rurally-based businesses in all sectors.

The findings of today’s meeting and similar sessions in other parts of the country will be drawn together by the CRC to for a national summit in November which will examine ways of empowering rural communities to tackle environmental and economic shocks.