It’s often rather casually assumed that rural places everywhere around the world are in deep decline, and I heard the same story again on a recent podcast. It’s an easy and slipshod elite metropolitical explanation for recent populist votes — “oh, those old rural yokels, in declining places, everyone leaves, only the dumb racists are left, etc etc”. But that’s not the case in Staffordshire, which is a Brexit heartland. According to the Staffordshire Rural Economy Evidence Base: Final Report, 2015, rural places in the county were generally doing very well 2011-15, despite the recession and despite some remaining rough pockets in places like Cannock Chase and a few villages on the fringes. And despite the ongoing long-term neglect by the tendency which today styles itself Greater Birmingham. But overall…

* “Some 59% of Staffordshire’s population lives in rural districts”.

* “a greater proportion of rural Staffordshire residents tend to have higher-education qualifications (NVQ4 level qualification or above) than the [urban + rural] Staffordshire average”

* “The rate of employment in rural areas is high relative to the [urban + rural] Staffordshire and [the] England average” [and in future] “rural Staffordshire is expected to see expansion (in terms of GVA and employment) in some highly productive sectors”.

* “The population living in rural Staffordshire is expected to grow more quickly than the Staffordshire average by 2025 and [also] by 2037” […] “The rate of population growth is expected to be particularly high in the rural districts of East Staffordshire and Lichfield through to 2025.”

Which means, according to the report, that resulting problems are those of growth and technology upgrade. Not problems of decline…

* New housing and roads, and the consequent need for good schools. Freeing up planning restrictions on improvements to existing buildings.

* Faster Internet speeds, wider rural coverage. Encouraging down-shifters from London, etc.

* Finding the space and staff with which to upscale your businesses. Creating informal local knowledge networks that loosely network the local talent.

* Maintain birth rates. Later, ways to bring back some of those young people who will have have moved away for university.

* Managing the transition to re-wilding, as we need less land to grow food.

* Getting services to an educated and able elderly population. Which means things like innovative in-home healthcare visits that are about real empathy and friendship, and which offer real knowledge via sensors and AI-linked devices. Rather than simple ‘home help’ cleaning/food services and/or social-worker -style spying and trotting out pat ‘health propaganda’ messages.