Rural Poverty – guest post

I’ve finally managed to persuade Nick Pearson to write a short piece on rural poverty.  Nick has spent the best part of 36 years working in both the charitable and private sectors, advising on personal debt.  I’m hoping this guest post won’t be the last, as rural poverty is a depressing reality for many – Sarah.

You Can’t Eat The View – Nick Pearson on Rural Poverty

Visitors to the Peak District often tell me that it must be wonderful to live somewhere so lovely.  And they are right, it is.  It must seem to outsiders as if the 38,000 people who live within the Peak District National Park boundary are living the dream.  Most are. Compared with the rest of the UK, particularly urban areas, the level of deprivation is very low in the Peak District. Indeed based on every indicator of poverty, from crime levels to unemployment we are indeed fortunate. Government statistics for rural versus urban poverty across the UK show a similar picture – the percentage of households in rural areas in relative low income was 16%  before housing costs and 17% after housing costs.  In comparison, the percentage of households in urban areas in relative low income was 18% before housing costs and 24% cent after housing costs (“Rural Poverty 2016/17” DEFRA).

Below the surface, things are not always as rosy as they seem.  House price inflation caused by wealthy incomers buying second homes or simply moving to the area, the continued expansion of holiday cottage numbers, and a lack of affordable social rented housing make it very difficult for lower income families to be able to afford to buy property in the area. The Peak District is in fact a low wage area.  People who live and work locally are dependent on farming, tourist related services, (such as pubs and restaurants),  and the local quarries for jobs, most of which are low paid – if you don’t believe me look in the “Peak Advertiser” at the jobs on offer.  Better paid locals usually travel to work in places such as Manchester or Nottingham and sometimes beyond each day.

As with other rural areas, the average resident of the Peak District is c5 years old than that of someone living in an urban area.  Retired residents can sometimes be asset rich but cash poor, reliant on the state pension as their only source of income.  These folk are usually born and bred in the area and have to rely on family who still live in the area to get out and about.

Public transport services are few and far between as are local shops, many of which have now closed in Peak District villages.  You need a car or good neighbours to get to the supermarkets, doctors or shops in Buxton or Ashbourne.  If you need to go to hospital for something serious expect to be taken to Macclesfield, Stockport or Chesterfield, all of which are the best part of an hour’s drive away – if you have a car.

I don’t want to over-egg the pudding – compared to those who live in the inner cities, Peak District residents are indeed fortunate but as a local farmer said to me in the village pub the other night, “Aye, it’s a grand place to live but you can’t eat the view, lad.”

Nick Pearson is Head of External Relations at Gregory Pennington Limited.