An influential new report into the cost of living in rural areas has confirmed what many have long suspected - living in the countryside is more expensive than in urban areas.
The report was launched by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Researchers used the charity’s nationally-accepted Minimum Income Standard to work out that a single person needs to earn £15,600 to get by if they live in a rural town, £17,900 a year if they live in a village and £18,600 if they live in a hamlet or in the remote countryside. A person living in an urban area needs £14,400 a year to meet the specified minimum.
People living in the countryside are hit by having to own and run a car. They face higher energy bills from heating older homes and are forced to use more expensive fuels if they are not connected to the gas network.
For many families in rural areas, it is a constant struggle to make ends meet, meaning they often have to spend up to twenty per cent more than an urban family to match their standard of living. This is despite the average wage in the countryside being much lower than the average wage of those who work in towns and cities.
A single person living in a rural area needs to earn at least £8.89 an hour, fifty per cent above the average minimum wage, just to be able to afford the minimum acceptable standard of living. For families with children living in remote areas the difference is even greater - to earn enough to get by, a typical two child family living in a hamlet needs to earn as much as £72 a week more than the same family living in an urban area.
The rising cost of living means many rural families are forced to move to urban areas. Long-established community networks are broken up as families struggle to set foot on the property ladder or move away to be closer to local amenities at no extra cost.
This report confirmed the fundamental reason behind the Countryside Alliance’s recent Rural Manifesto - people living in the countryside do not seek special treatment but they do want fair treatment. The Alliance will continue to campaign for improved facilities such as transport links, post offices and schools. We will also strive to work towards a countryside where local families are not forced out by rising property prices, a lack of social housing and the financial inability to live and work in the area.
Campaigning for a thriving countryside has always been vital to the Alliance’s existence. At the heart of all that we do are the people who live and work there.