In the second half of 2009, unemployment in rural areas rose by 73% to about 250,000 people or 5% of the working-age population. In comparison, in cities and towns, the unemployment level rose to just 39% or 1.7 million.
The report also shows that 25% of rural households are now in ‘income poverty’, 5% more than the country as a whole.
The effect of the recession on the countryside included the closure of post offices, pubs and local schools, and continuing lack of services such as fast broadband connections, training opportunities and affordable housing has forced more young people to leave.
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Dr Stuart Burgess, in his last report as the Government’s chief advisor on the countryside, warned the new coalition Government not to neglect the countryside.
He noted that job losses were caused by the fall in farming incomes, loss of public sector organisations and the struggle for small businesses to survive.
Dr Burgess also acknowledged that £1.45 billion is contributed to the economy by the activities of people in rural areas, which will be lost unless the Government takes action, particularly on issues such as rural broadband.
He concluded: ‘Rural England has some huge strengths and none more relevant at this time than the enduring sense of community, which enables many communities to compensate for the lack of local services that their urban counterparts have taken for granted – for example, high-speed broadband.
‘Indeed, rural communities could provide models of how others can be empowered to do the same at a time of public sector retrenchment and austerity.’
In response, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has promised to ‘champion the interests of rural communities’.
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