While the economic downturn is having an impact in both urban and rural areas, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs analysis of data from other Government Departments and the regional development agencies suggests that, when compared with the economy in urban areas, the picture in rural England so far has been more positive.
Is the Minister aware that some 200,000 people living in rural areas do not have bank accounts; that mainstream banking facilities in rural areas are closing; that pubs, post offices and schools are closing; and that in some areas, village halls are closing because they cannot be maintained? Will the Minister and his Department undertake a review of the position of rural areas as a result of what has been happening recently, not least the recession?
That is a very important issue, as I know from my own constituency. In June 2009, the Department for Work and Pensions, which is the lead Department for financial inclusion, and the Commission for Rural Communities jointly published a report on financial inclusion in rural areas, “Rural Money Matters”, which found that rural areas did not appear to fare worse than urban areas, although it suggested that analysis on a smaller scale would be likely to identify smaller pockets of significant hardship. I am certainly concerned to keep an eye on that.