Call for rural-friendly measures to continue as countryside optimism grows

Quality of life in rural areas of the UK rose dramatically in the second quarter of 2013 as country people appeared to respond positively to March’s budgetary measures.

This has prompted rural insurer NFU Mutual to call for a similarly “country-friendly” approach to the Autumn Statement.

The call comes as NFU Mutual issues the latest findings of its Countryside Living Index (CLI), a quarterly representative study tracking rural dwellers’ feelings about issues such as the cost of living, health, crime, education, job opportunities and the local economy.

The survey has revealed that in the second quarter of 2013 rural perceptions on the state of the local economy rose by over ten per cent in the countryside, while in contrast confidence in the urban economy fell.

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said:

“The recession made life in the countryside very tough for many people so it’s great news to see concerns about the cost of living easing.

“As the UK’s leading rural insurer we understand the particular challenges of running businesses and working in the countryside.

“Over the last two years we have seen firms struggle to stay afloat.

“We think that many have only managed to survive thanks to innovative management combined with measures such as freezing fuel duty and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“However, for young people the lack of rural jobs paying a living wage and high transport and housing costs continue to make it hard for them to live in the countryside, and we urge the Government to support this group to prevent country homes being affordable only for second homeowners and city commuters.”

Overall the CLI recorded a six per cet rise in the perceived quality of rural life between the first two quarters of 2013, the biggest quarterly rise since the survey began in January 2012.

As well as economic factors, rural satisfaction with levels of health provision also saw its highest rating recorded since the start of the survey.

Coming just weeks after NFU Mutual’s annual crime survey revealed the cost of UK rural crime had fallen nearly 20 per cent, the CLI also recorded a quarterly improvement of three per cent on levels of concern about crime in the countryside.

The single biggest quarterly satisfaction increase was seen in cost of living, which jumped by an impressive 11 per cent.

Asked to rate their ability to afford life in the countryside on a scale of one to ten, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of those who took part in the CLI returned a score of eight or more, and more than half (59 per cent) at least a six.

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