Headlines: September 15th, 1998

There has been a claim that the Government’s Social Exclusion Unit is ignoring the plight of poor people in rural areas and concentrating resources on inner city poverty.

The report states that despite the popular image of rural wealth, one in four households live in or on the margins of poverty with many households consisting of low paid manual workers or elderly people living alone.

The report, launched by the Local Government Association, says statistics are distorted by a small number of high earners who live in villages and raise the ‘average’ standard of living. In some villages, for example, one third of the population earn in excess of L40,000 a year whilst another third earn less than L6,000 a year.Cllr Alison Clish-Green, chairwoman of the LGA’s Rural Commission, said: `The Social Exclusion Unit must stop focusing solely on urban areas. Behind the beautiful scenery of the countryside there is also extensive and extreme financial hardship and unemployment that the Government is choosing to ignore.’

She has called on local authorities to tackle the problem with or without the help of central Government. The guide contains a number of case studies and examples of good practice where rural councils have taken the lead in tackling poverty in their communities.These include Cherwell District Council, which has pioneered a mobile Health Centre to ensure those living in remote areas have access to health services, and Leicestershire County Council, which in partnership with the Royal Mail provides a 10-seater Post Bus to reach isolated rural villages.