Deprivation and disadvantage is widespread in rural areas, not just restricted to urban areas.
HIDDEN RURAL POVERTY
At least one in five households in rural areas live at or below the poverty line, according to a study carried out by the University of Bristol for the Rural Development Commission published on March 30. Based on a survey of more than 3,000 homes in 12 areas, the report, Lifestyles in Rural England, says a “cloak of prosperity” hides poverty, inequality and isolation. Among the findings were:
a shortage of affordable accommodation, especially for young married couples;
isolation for the less mobile due to poor public transport and lack of essential services;
above average levels of self-employment and the ‘black’ economy.
Contact Anne-Marie Sewell, RDC, on 071 278 6970
The Countryside Minister, Robert Atkins, launched the Rural Challenge on February 14. Aimed at stimulating rural development projects, six prizes of £1 million will be awarded to be spent over a three-year period. Applicants must be partnerships between local authorities, TECs, private investors, the voluntary sector, local communities, and the Rural Development Commission’s Rural Development Committees. Substantial private sector investment must be included in the bids which must have clear success targets.
Meanwhile four hundred interested organisations have been asked to submit their views on the possible merger of the Countryside Commission and English Nature. A six-month feasibility study by the government commenced in February. Contact Department of the Environment on 071 276 0900
RURAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION GRANTS
The Rural Development Commission is to make grants totalling around £15 million for social and economic projects in Rural Development Areas. The grants, which will be matched by contributions from other private and public sector sources, will go towards the financing of:
social and community projects;
industrial sites and workspaces;
economic projects in areas hit be industrial change and job losses.
Contact Rural Development Commission on 071 276 6969
COUNTRYSIDE MEANS BUSINESS
The Countryside Means Business, a Rural Development Commission book highlighting the advantages of setting up business in rural areas, was published on February 7. Aimed at potential entrepreneurs, investors and financiers, it contains 12 case studies of successful business set-ups. Contact Rural Development Commission on 0722 336255
The inner cities tend to grab the headlines – crime, violence, drug abuse etc. The somewhat ‘quieter’ problems of rural areas tend to be overlooked in this country, unlike some continental countries, where powerful lobbies can influence national governments. But what are the responsibilities of companies?
Back in October 1992, an inquiry chaired by the Duke of Westminster highlighted the lack of effective mechanisms through which companies could get involved. That inquiry was endorsed by some 40 leading individuals, many chairmen and chief executives of large companies. Eighteen months on, little seems to have changed for the better, so the government’ Rural Challenge scheme, drawing on some of the experience with City Challenge, is to be warmly welcomed.
One way for companies to rise to the challenge is by accelerating the trend to localisation – more teleworking, fewer large offices, greater flexibility in working patterns. A challenge for the whole business, not just for community affairs.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 15 – April, 1994