Addressing Conservatives at the Birmingham conference, the Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, Caroline Spelman said: "The fact is that Labour has run our rural areas down. Frankly we've got to make up for lost time."
Warning that the Coalition has been left with one of the worst financial legacies of all time, she stressed the need for economic growth to bolster communities and reinvigorate rural areas.
"Let's face it - we need to take every opportunity to grow the economy. We're up against one of the worst financial legacies any government has inherited", Mrs Spelman declared.
But she added: "Whatever cuts we have to make, we won't lose sight of the frontline services people rely on."