2 March 2000
Prescott wants 1bn for rural affairs

DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott wants the Treasury to pump 1 billion into rural affairs to show government commitment to the countryside.

The Financial Times reports that Mr Prescotts Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) is bidding for an extra 450m to add to the existing three-year spend of 540m.

A leaked draft of a DETR consultation document admits that “there are significant numbers of people experiencing poverty in rural areas, even in relatively affluent ones”.

It adds that there is an increasing disparity between the economic performance of the most disadvantaged rural areas and elsewhere.

This emphasis is at odds with a government report last month which sought to show that rural dwellers generally enjoyed a better quality of life than urban counterparts.

The 13-page DETR document also makes clear that the last comprehensive spending review was not satisfactory.

It says that limited increases in Ministry of Agriculture spending on agri-environment schemes from the review were “hopelessly inadequate” to meet demand.

The DETR bid will be considered as part of Chancellor Gordon Browns spending review, which will be completed in the summer.