Cost of living drops for region’s rural residents

A scene from Halvergate Marshes: The price to be paid for rural tranquillity is dropping A scene from Halvergate Marshes: The price to be paid for rural tranquillity is dropping

Saturday, May 24, 2014
8:00 AM

The cost of living in the countryside has fallen for the first time in many years, according to a new report.

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A study by NFU Mutual looked at quality of life in rural areas and measured inflation based on a typical basket of goods.

It found a negative figure for inflation, -1 per cent, for the first time since measures began in 2011, when rural inflation was nearly twice the national average at 8.8 per cent.

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Country people in Norfolk and Suffolk were particulary hard hit by the sharp rises in oil prices in 2011 and 2012 because of the extreme remoteness of many of the two counties’ villages.

“This means that very few rural people have access to mains gas, and therefore reliant on expensive fuels such as oil and liquified gas for heating. The prices of these fuels shot up leading to families struggling to afford to heat their homs and a rush for alternative sources of heat such as wood burning stoves.”

He added that the remoteness of rural communities in East Anglia combined with diminishing public transport provision meant residents were also hit hard when petrol and diesel prices rise as there was often no alternative but to drive to get to work, shop, visit the doctor and socialise.

“After two years with the cost of living for country people in East Anglia running at almost double that for urban dwellers, the recent fall in heating oil and petrol prices has come as a huge relief,” he said.

“However, while the recent fall in the cost of living in the countryside is great news, Norfolk and Suffolk’s rural communities still face considerably higher living costs that residents of Norwich and larger towns across the counties.

“There’s also a risk that world events or shortages in oil supplies could force up prices once again, leading to further pressure on rural family incomes.”

The report said the drop was driven by home prices dropping as well as fuel costs.

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