The Commission for Rural Communities has conducted a survey and found that someone in a remote village needed £18.6k a year to get by, compared with £14.4k for an urban dweller. So a villager has to earn about 50% above the minimum wage of £5.93 an hour to reach a minimum living standard. That may have a lot of aspirational urban types doing a U-turn in the 4x4 and confining it to the school run for a while yet.
The extra costs, it says, come down to transport and fuel. And there we were thinking that country idyll was the way to go: all that fresh air and honest labour. That’s the trouble with dreams: practicalities often get in the way.
The research is based on what items people think households need to be able to afford to achieve a minimum acceptable living standard. So where does the difference come in? Surely a pair of wellies and a healthy taste for ale can’t cost that much.
Much of it comes down to infrastructure issues: public transport is impracticable in the country, so a car is a must. Energy bills can be higher, because you’re not always connected to mains gas. And then there are things like the internet – with a dodgy slow connection, you may have to rely more on traditional entertainments and services that cost more. That is at least changing: BT’s prioritised places like Cornwall for its fibre-optic broadband revolution.
But much of country living makes no sense. Not only are living costs higher, but wages are often lower, and even housing is not much cheaper than in town. Factor in holiday homes and it’s often higher.
The report found that, with low pay more common in rural areas, many rural workers fall well short of being able to afford their essential needs. And the more remote the area, the greater the extra costs. While you need £15.6k a year in a rural town, it costs £18.6k to live in a hamlet or the remote countryside. In fact a family of four in a hamlet needs £72.20 a week more than a similar urban family. That’s a lot of roadside spuds to shift.
But within all the pain are the roots of the benefits. While country living may be tougher, many inhabitants will happily consider it a sacrifice worth making: anything that deters others from moving in is probably a good thing. Indeed, if the countryside was cheap, well-paid, and full of convenient amenities and affordable housing, then it’d be the city. And where would everyone dream of moving then?