Many city dwellers will have dreamt of moving to the countryside, something made to look easy by carefully choreographed programmes on daytime television. The financial reality of rural life is rarely considered but research, most recently by NFU Mutual, shows that not only is it more expensive to live in country areas but the cost of living is rising faster than in towns and cities – 4.3% in urban areas compared to 7.7% in the country.
A basket of common goods and services would typically cost a rural household around £2,000 more per year more than their urban counterparts. The most obvious items being petrol and diesel, which usually cost more to deliver, and fewer petrol stations mean that people need to drive further in order to fill up their vehicles. Car usage is higher due to poor public transport and journeys are on average twice the length with 4x4s often a necessity rather than a fashion accessory.
Many rural homes are bigger, older, may not have access to mains gas and are reliant on heating oil, LPG or solid fuel which means they can end up costing four times as much to keep warm. One reason for promoting the concept of oil-buying co-operatives which enable people to enjoy savings through collective purchasing. Bigger houses also result in higher Council Tax bills whilst most rural areas are not classed as ‘deprived’ according to the most commonly applied criteria and consequently do not attract the many grants available to inner cities. A higher Council Tax base means the countryside makes a proportionately bigger contribution to local authority revenues and receives less in redistributed Government grants with the inevitable outcome that money flows from rural to urban areas. House prices are also higher and limited social housing makes it difficult for young people to stay in the places where they were born.
One curious statistic is that the cost of looking after domestic pets is 50% higher in the countryside but after years representing a rural part of Barnsley I suspect this is because people have bigger dogs!
Then there is the vexing subject of Broadband. Some people have no access or it is so limited and unreliable that they are unable to enjoy the benefits and savings of online shopping.
Food is 5-10% more expensive as is wine so is even more expensive to drown your sorrows after looking at the monthly outgoings.
First published in the Barnsley Chronicle – Penistone in Particular September 2013