The cost of living in the countryside drops for first time in years due to fuel price falls

22nd May 2014

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The cost of living in the countryside has fallen for the first time in many years, according to research from NFU Mutual. The survey looking at the quality of life in rural areas includes a unique measure of inflation based on a typical basket of goods consumed by countryside residents.

This year’s results shows a negative figure for inflation (-1.0%) for the first time since the firm began examining the issue in spring 2011, when rural inflation was nearly twice the national average (8.8% vs. 4.5% CPI).

Rural dwellers are particularly susceptible to price variations on petrol and home fuels because they tend to live in isolated locations and have to travel further with limited access to public transport. They are also less likely to be on mains gas.

As a result, a 6.6% fall in the cost of petrol and diesel and a 12.1% fall in the cost of home fuels such as coal and heating oil has been the driving force behind rural living getting cheaper.

These easing financial pressures are also reflected in figures for consumer confidence in the cost of living in rural areas, which, according to the findings, has risen steadily over the last three years. At the same time, people are less worried about having enough disposable income or being able to save enough.[1]

However while the fuel price falls mean that rural residents are paying less to get by, they still pay more overall. The average UK consumer spends £4,357 a year on home maintenance, personal transport, fuel and energy – but this figure is 40% higher for those living in the countryside, coming in at £6,082.

A related recent study by NFU Mutual highlighted the fact that rural families also face significantly higher costs for childcare, placing particular stress on families with young children, who face costs of £202 a week compared with £190 for urban parents to look after an infant during the working week.

The survey suggests that life satisfaction overall, incorporating environment, education provision, local economy, health and crime indicates a greater level of life happiness among people living in the countryside than those in towns and cities.

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, says: “People living in the countryside have borne the brunt of price rises over the last three years because of their reliance on cars and heating oil, so this fall is very welcome news.

“While living in the countryside still costs more, the fact that people are happier shows that the joys of a rural lifestyle are still well worth the extra expense.”

Research methodology

The research was conducted by ICM research between 28th March and 10th April 2014. Responses were obtained from 1,635 GB adults, of which 1,329 are from rural areas of Great Britain and 306 from urban areas.

Methodology for the countryside basket

Levels of expenditure on various goods and services in countryside households vs. UK household averages were derived from the results of a special analysis of the three most recent years of fully-detailed ONS Expenditure and Food Survey data (2011-13), isolating households classified as “Countryside” in the Output Area Classification system.

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