Rural poverty comes with a thatched roof, John Gummer told a fairly well-heeled audience for Opera in the Barn, at Crows Hall, Debenham, on Saturday evening.
Lord Gummer was quoting someone else but the point was well made for the audience at the event which was for the benefit of the Suffolk Foundation which raises and allocates money to a wide range of projects throughout the county.
Last week the foundation published a research report, Hidden Needs, into deprivation in the county. It was prepared by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research in the University’s Department of Land Economy.
It shows that nearly 78,000 people (more than one in ten of the population) live in income deprivation at the most minimal living standard provided by welfare benefits and will below the “poverty line”. This includes 19,000 children under 16 and 24,000 people of retirement age.
While Ipswich and Lowestoft have the worst areas of deprivation, the “hidden” poor of rural areas are vulnerable when resources are allocated to areas with the greets need.
Shockingly, the report shows than in the past few years poverty in Suffolk has risen relative to England as a whole.
The distances that residents in many parts of the county must travel to buy groceries, see a GP or post a parcel are among the highest in England.
On government spending cuts, the report says:
The Local Government Finance Settlement, the Coalition government’s decentralisation policy, the Localism Bill, the Big Society agenda, and outsourcing of public sector services in Suffolk present both challenges and opportunities for different sectors of Suffolk society.
While these changes may present opportunities for social enterprises, charities and small businesses to grow and develop, it is possible that the impact of funding cuts and restructuring of public sector service provision will have most negative effects on the most disadvantaged groups and individuals.
This is a report that should be read by every member of the county and district councils. If they don’t they are not doing their jobs properly