Survey shows true cost of countryside living

Rural residents pay £2,000 more than the national average for essential goods and services, according to a Countryside Living Index, launched by rural insurer NFU Mutual.

The study’s objective is to track the quality of life in the countryside and will be carried out on a quarterly basis.

It found that a basket of 21 essential goods and services cost £5,992 in rural areas, compared to a national average of £3,986.

The basket of items includes items such as car fuel, heating oil and vehicle repairs.

The research showed inflation in the countryside is almost double that of for the nation as a whole – year-on-year “rural inflation” levels averaged 7.7% over 12 months, compared to the national average of 4.3%.

Higher fuel prices were a key factor, a problem compounded by a lack of public transport and the fact rural residents have to travel on average twice as far as urban dwellers to the nearest shop.

Sky-high prices of domestic fuels such as heating oil also had an effect, with people in the countryside spending £6.80/week more than their urban counterparts.

The report also identified an estimated 5-10% “rural premium” paid on everyday goods purchased locally, with meat, tea and coffee having the largest price differentials.

At the same time, inferior broadband speeds and reception limit the practicality of internet shopping enjoyed by urban residents.

Despite this, a quarterly ICM poll comparing the standard of living of 1,300 rural and urban residents showed that rural residents were generally happier about their lives.

Richard Percy, chairman of NFU Mutual, said: “Our findings show that, on the whole, people living in the countryside have a better quality of life than their urban counterparts, but that cost associated with this are becoming increasingly difficult to bear.

“While there are clearly lots of people who pay this ‘countryside premium’ willingly, and can well afford to do so, we can not lose sight of the fact there are also many others in rural areas who don’t enjoy the luxury of being able to move to cheaper areas and are struggling to make ends meet.”

Components of the “Countryside basket of goods” (Source: NFU Mutual & ONS)

Item  Countryside households (£ per week)  UK households (£ per week) Extra spend by countryside households compared to UK average (£ per week) % annual inflation at March 2012 
Petrol, diesel and motor oil £30.37 £20.60 £9.77 4.8
Domestic fuels (central heating oil, coal & coke, etc) £8.40 £1.60  £6.80  4.7
Pets and pet food £7.03 £3.73  £3.30  3.7 
Vehicle repairs and servicing £9.13 £6.37  £2.77  1.7 
Electricity £12.33 £9.70  £2.63  8.1 
Wine £5.30  £3.50  £1.80  2.6 
Home maintenance £5.20 £3.73  £1.47  3.2 
Gardens, plants and horticultural goods £4.03 £2.57  £1.47  -2.6 
Tools and equipment £3.13  £1.73  £1.40  12.6 
Hairdressing and beauty salons £4.63 £3.27  £1.37  1.6 
Repair of major durables £1.40 £0.30  £1.10  0.8 
Flooring and carpet £4.17 £3.37  £0.80  1.8 
Motor spares and accessories £2.90 £2.17  £0.73 0.8 
Prescriptions and medical equipment £2.40 £1.83  £0.57  1.1 
Fruit £3.57  £3.00  £0.57 1.8 
Books £1.90 £1.37  £0.53  -6.3 
Fresh fish £2.73 £2.30 £0.43 4.7
Cheese £2.17 £1.77 £0.40 3.0
Major electrical appliances £0.90 £0.50 £0.40 3.0
Newspapers £2.23 £1.83 £0.40 3.4
Sport, outdoor and camping equipment £1.30 £0.97 £0.33 -1.6

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