Work crisis

18 August 2000

Work crisis

fuels call

for car aid

RURAL unemployment could be cut if the government gave grants to help unemployed country dwellers buy a car, suggests a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Means-tested help with the cost of road tax and insurance should also be considered as policy options to help get people back to work in the "increasingly exclusive" countryside, it says. And fuel duties collected in isolated regions could be used to directly subsidise public transport.

"There is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of government thinking when fuel taxation and other policies designed to reduce car use and ownership serve to exacerbate rural exclusion and intensify barriers to employment," says report author Professor Mark Shuksmith.

One woman interviewed for the study said: "The job centre doesnt look favourably on you if youre looking for work, live in a village and have no car… Your chance of a job is almost zero. And no job, no money for a car."

The report, which appeals to the government to recognise that a car is "essential" in the countryside, comes hot on the heels of widespread criticism of fuel tax levels.

Janet Godfrey, WFU chairman, dubbed the high fuel duty "anti-countryside". It is, she says, hindering access to vital services and increasing the risk of isolation.

Think tank… fuel prices have rocketed – a bitter blow to country dwellers with long distances to cover.

See more