Headlines: November 29th, 2010

People living in rural areas typically need to spend 10-20 per cent more than people in urban areas to reach a minimum acceptable living standard. These higher costs mean a single person living in a village needs to earn at least 50 per cent above the minimum wage to make ends meet.

Research for the new report was carried out for the Commission for Rural Communities by Loughborough University. The living standard is based on what items ordinary people think households need to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The findings illustrate that the more remote the area, the greater the extra expense. To afford a minimum standard of living, a single person needs to earn at least £15,600 a year in a rural town, £17,900 a year in a village and £18,600 in a hamlet or the remote countryside. In comparison, urban dwellers need £14,400, to meet the specified minimum.

The reasons for the higher costs are mainly related to travel and energy costs. A car is a significant additional cost for rural households because residents say public transport is insufficient to meet essential travel needs. Many rural dwellers also face higher energy bills because they do not have mains gas supply and have to use more expensive alternative fuels.

For some people the picture is even starker with the largest additional budgets required by parents with two children. In a hamlet this family needs £72.20 more per week than a similar urban family. An online calculator allows individuals to work out their minimum earnings requirement adjusted for the number and ages of people in their household and whether they live in a city, town, village or hamlet.

The higher costs of living in rural areas contrasts with widespread low rural pay. A worker in a rural district has a one in four higher chance of being low paid than someone in an urban district.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation Chief Executive, Julia Unwin CBE, said: “This important research helps to show how disadvantage is not just an urban phenomenon. If society is to agree that people in rural areas should be able to meet a minimum income standard, then we need to start planning for that now, so that improvements in the economy can be reflected in better living standards for people whether they are in cities, towns, villages, or beyond.”