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Charity warns rural community families will suffer worst in Government benefits crackdown

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 21, 2013

Comments (14)

Families in rural areas will be hardest hit by the Government's welfare crackdown, campaigners have warned.

The Action with Communities in Rural England charity (ACRE) contends the higher cost of living in the countryside means rural communities will bear the brunt of the real-terms cut in working-age state benefits.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show weekly families in rural areas spend £50 more a week than urban households.

Meanwhile, research from rural insurer NFU Mutual shows inflation in the countryside is twice the national average.

The biggest difference is spending on transport – rural householders spend around £20 more – underlining the reliance on the car in the countryside because of the lack of public transport.

MPs this month backed a three-year squeeze on most working age welfare payments and tax credits.

By up-rating benefits by 1% – rather than pegging hand-outs to inflation – ministers will slash £5 billion from the welfare bill.

They argue the increase in benefits has far outstripped increases in wages in recent years, contending the real-terms cut is therefore fair. It is estimated almost 300,000 Westcountry households will see their benefits affected by the cap on welfare.

Benefits set to be affected by the changes include jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance and income support, as well as elements of working tax credits and child tax credit.

ACRE's director of policy and research Nick Chase said: "There is no doubt that these latest Government proposals are a harsh blow to those low-paid rural families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

"Countryside residents are heavily dependent on their cars due to a lack of public transport, typically having to travel twice as far to reach their nearest shops, banks and post offices as their urban neighbours.

"Rural dwellers are also hit by the comparatively high cost of heating oil, which is often used as a substitute for gas, as many rural villages are off the grid.

"We are calling on the Government to seriously consider the impact of benefit cuts on rural communities before rubber-stamping these proposals."

Cornwall's low-income economy is confirmed by the fact it is one of just two areas in the UK to get the highest level of EU state aid to revive ailing economies. But some Devon MPs say large parts of Devon are just as poor, if not poorer.

Cornwall Council Labour councillor Jude Robinson said: "What will happen is that people and families, who may have lived all their life in a village or small community, will be forced into bedsits or flats in towns miles away from their friends and relatives.

"Rural areas will be reserved for commuters and the well off. When the coalition talks about welfare reform, it is code for the usual policies that hit the poorest hardest."

ACRE, the umbrella organisation for 38 members of the nationwide Rural Community Action Network, says its in-depth studies show there are hidden pockets of deprivation in the English countryside.

Mary Creagh MP, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "This report confirms that families in the Westcountry are set to be hit hard by the Government's tax on strivers. There are pockets of real poverty in our towns and villages where people are feeling the squeeze from rising living costs and the Government's failed economic plans. Low-paid nurses, teachers and soldiers will be badly affected by the changes to tax credits and benefits."

She added: "This out-of-touch government is engaged in a race to the bottom on rural wages by abolishing fair pay for farm workers and creating a massive growth in food poverty."

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  • ATTICUSFINCH  |  January 22 2013, 7:56PM

    I think that benefits should be means tested,but with a difference. I have noticed that there are a lot of really fat ugly Heffers on benefits,Most are Women with kids in pushchairs. If benefits were gradually reduced the heavier someone is it would help to reduce the obesity problem. The really Fat Lardies could be encouraged to grow their own fruit and veg,although I accept that they are incapable of bending down to pick carrots and root veg and may need help initially. It should be noted that Fatties on Benefit or FOBs for short are being financed in their fatness by the working man and woman and this is clearly unacceptable.

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  • omnivore23  |  January 22 2013, 12:51PM

    Thanks for your views on the welfare state, prisons, liberals, socialists, probation officers, the middle class, people from London, drug users, human rights, and the BBC Sidney. You really are a marvel, fitting all that into a story about rural poverty. Now If you could just get something in about ethnic minorites, women, and people who use Apple products I can complete my bigot-bingo card (copyright Daily Mail).

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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 22 2013, 9:41AM

    There is a big difference between inviting someone to a party and employing them for 50 years. Still the BBC are multi cultural and like to embrace all cultures it seems, all cultures!

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  • Chopper8  |  January 22 2013, 8:33AM

    by SidneyNuffMonday, January 21 2013, 9:14PM "I think you have been watching too much London left wing sentimental news on the BBC. (The BBC, more public funded liberals who just can't wait to spend all YOUR money on adverts telling you how good they are and how you couldn't live without them. They employed Jimmy Saville for 50 years)." Would that be the same Jimmy Savile who spent eleven - yes, that's right - ELEVEN New Years Eves as an honoured guest of that well known lefty liberal Margaret Thatcher?

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  • Jungle_Jim  |  January 21 2013, 9:57PM

    As it happens, i don't wwatch that much BBC and, form my opinions from numerous sources - I even read your favourite comic. I also have experience of various parts of the public sector and private industry. If you wish to have a discussion, it is generally regarded as good manners to respond to a comment with some form of considered point, not just chuck insults about, plus you failed to answer a straight question.

  • SidneyNuff  |  January 21 2013, 9:14PM

    I think you have been watching too much London left wing sentimental news on the BBC. (The BBC, more public funded liberals who just can't wait to spend all YOUR money on adverts telling you how good they are and how you couldn't live without them. They employed Jimmy Saville for 50 years).

    |   -3
  • Jungle_Jim  |  January 21 2013, 8:57PM

    SidneyNuff You clearly don't have the first clue about how many of your list actually live - or who they deal with. You really must get your nose out of the Daily Mail and into the real world - but that's the touble with right wingers, they believe what their masters want them to. BTW, do you or any of your family receive tax credits?

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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 21 2013, 8:23PM

    It apparently costs more to send someone to prison than it does to send someone to Eton. It shouldn't do, it wouldn't do in most countries. But we have built up a huge middle class liberal industry around crime. We aren't solving crime but we are keeping lots of judges, and their counsellor daughters and their social worker boyfriends and their out-reach cousins and their probation officer brothers and their human rights lawyer friends in nice big houses, the public sector is a gravy train and those who are driving don't want it to stop, however much it costs YOU.

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  • Jungle_Jim  |  January 21 2013, 7:50PM

    Sidneynuff A high percentage of those affected by these changes are actually working - so hardly 'sad little drug addicts living on benefits in a council flat'. Try being educated yourself, beyond certain biased media. That's the most contrived way of getting your rant against the public sector out there I've ever seen. A high percentage public sector staff are most definitely working class, are paid significantly less than the national average and have had no increases in the last 3 years, which is significantly less than the private sector average rise. Perhaps you'd like to tell us how you would manage without an NHS, police force, fire brigade, road network, just to mention a few key services. Don't forget, you have to have someone collect the money to pay for these, and do their 'administration. I'm unsure who's side APExeter is on, but these 'decades of labour'.....12 years preceded by 18 years of Tory government.....doesn't quite work.

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  • SidneyNuff  |  January 21 2013, 1:53PM

    The left always bring out the sick and the disabled and say to them 'look they want to take all your benefits away'. Genuine cases have been and are being undermined by a system that incourages people not to work, not to train and not to become educated. The London liberals want a nation of helpless but grateful serfs. Ask youself, as you pick up your benefits from a system that over pays it's largely middle class public sector workforce, who the system is really working for. The public sector will tell you you can't live without them and they will try and scare you. The truth is, theu can't live without you, they are scared THEIR living standards will drop.