26 April 2000
Rural life is tough, government told
By FWi staff
THE Countryside Agencys second annual report is expected to paint a bleak picture for many farmers when it is released on Wednesday (26 April).
The agency, which advises the government on rural issues in England, is expected to show that farm incomes have fallen to their lowest level for 30 years.
Its first report, published last year, showed that unemployment in the countryside was below the jobless level of urban areas.
But the new report is likely to show that the levels of “hidden” unemployment are much higher in rural areas than in cities.
It is expected to show that wages are lowest in counties such as Cornwall and Shropshire, where farming has traditionally been a big part of the rural economy.
Opposition MPs are likely to seize on the figures to back their claims that the government is neglecting people in rural areas.
Speaking ahead of the report, Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman Colin Breed accused the government of failing to reduce the divide between town and country.
“The Prime Minister cannot keep denying the very real problems facing people in the countryside,” he said.
The Countryside Agency report also calls into question the belief held by many people that life in the countryside is easier than in the city.
A poll conducted for estate agent Strutt and Parker last year found that seven out of 10 people would prefer to live in the countryside.
When questioned, some 87% of those living in the countryside said that they preferred the higher quality of life in rural areas.
But the survey also revealed that 50% of those surveyed thought the countryside looked worse now than it did 50 years ago.