HC 602, Sixth Report of Session 2013-14 - Volume I: Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence
- House of Commons - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
The report 'Rural Communities (HC 602)' assesses how successful the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and its Rural Communities Policy Unit have been at championing rural affairs across government. The Department faces a difficult task; government policy has often failed to take account of challenges that exist in providing services to a rural population.
The current system of calculating the local government finance settlement is deeply unfair to rural areas in comparison with their urban counterparts. Rural communities pay more in council tax, receive less government grant and have access to fewer public services than people in large towns and cities.
The extra cost of providing services to rural communities is evident across the public sector, yet rural local authorities received less than half the per capita funding than urban authorities in 2012-13. In areas such as education the government is reducing local authorities' flexibility to allocate extra funding to small rural schools with higher running costs.
Rural businesses, schools and households have fallen behind their urban counterparts when it comes to broadband access. Given the problems with the existing Rural Broadband Programme, the Committee believes the £300 million from the BBC would be best used as a lever to encourage private and community sector capital and expertise.
Rural areas also fall behind in mobile coverage. Almost 30% of England lacks 2G mobile coverage, and this figure rises to nearly 70% for 3G services.
On average, people working in rural areas earn less than those working in urban areas but rural homes are more expensive than urban ones. According to Halifax, rural house prices have risen 35% faster in the countryside than in urban areas over the last decade.
Economic barriers also need to be overcome, including improving rural businesses' access to finance. The forthcoming Business Bank and the Single Local Growth Fund should be available to rural businesses as they are to their urban counterparts.
|Format||Paperback||Published||24 Jul 2013|
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