For centuries Cheshire has relied upon its rural communities to deliver the economic, social and environmental benefits we all need, and the 2020s are no exception.

That why it’s pleasing to see that they are set to benefit from an extra £110 million in Government funding - announced to support rural business and community groups.

Local authorities - like ours of Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East - will receive the cash, which they can invest in initiatives such as farm diversification, projects to boost rural tourism, and community infrastructure projects including electric vehicle charging stations.

Indeed, councils in Cheshire have done particularly well, receiving £992,101 and £827,627 respectively - that’s a total of £1,819,728 for our county alone!

The Rural England Prosperity Fund is a rural top-up to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and will also help people start up local businesses, both to supercharge growth and create employment opportunities for rural areas.

It marks a change from the former bureaucratic and fragmented EU funds, allowing the Government to work closely with Cheshire leaders to direct money where it is most needed: to close the rural productivity gap, and create job opportunities and protect the Eddisbury countryside - in line with local residents’ priorities.

The funds will be spent in two key policy areas that fit well with our own local need and growth potential.

Firstly, on supporting projects which aim to improve community facilities - such as green spaces - and boost access to the arts and culture to grow local tourism economies.

Secondly, on supporting agricultural businesses looking to expand their remit, and rural businesses looking to launch or grow their products and services.

The Government has allocated £110 million between 2023 and 2025, and is in contact with both of our local authorities to confirm their allocated amounts, so they can begin to deliver on their plans over the coming weeks. For more information see the councils' websites.

This announcement follows the Delivering for Rural England countryside-proofing report, which set out how rural challenges and opportunities will be at the heart of the Government’s approach to levelling-up.

The Government is, as part of that drive, committed to promoting high-quality digital infrastructure nationwide, and is already delivering major upgrades through the Shared Rural Network and Project Gigabit.

Considerable advances have been made in improving connectivity, with 30 per cent of rural premises now having access to gigabit-capable connections, compared with 19 per cent in January 2021.

And I am pleased to say that, in Eddisbury, we have both matched this fantastic rate of improvement to our broadband network, and continue that effort to roll out superfast connections even further!