More rural areas are suffering from low incomes, high crime rates and poor access to jobs than they were four years ago, according to a report looking at rural deprivation.

The Commission for Rural Communities’ State of the Countryside update says while rural areas suffer less deprivation than urban areas, villages and hamlets have become more deprived than in 2004.

The update, which compares rural places across England against official markers of deprivation, including housing, health and training, found many rural areas suffered from poor housing conditions and a lack of services.

It also found the north-south divide was being eroded, with southern rural communities becoming relatively more deprived compared to areas in the north.

CRC said authorities needed to target help towards specific rural communities rather than looking at average deprivation scores for large geographical areas.

Nicola Lloyd, CRC’s director for analysis, said: “The spatial differences shown in this report indicate why there is a need to approach matters relating to rural deprivation at a smaller spatial scale and in parallel with local knowledge and expertise.

“A more sophisticated understanding of rural deprivation needs to be developed so that local bodies can determine how deprivation in their areas can be addressed through regeneration initiatives.”

The CRC would work to give authorities the tools they needed to address rural deprivation, she added.