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MPs call for action on rural inequality

Poor access to public services and broadband is leading to an urban-rural divide, MPs on the Commons Rural Affairs Committee have warned. It follows a recent warning from Age UK of the impact of cuts on elderly people living in rural areas.

In a new report, the MPs highlight slow internet connections, low mobile coverage and less government funding despite higher costs of delivering services in the countryside.

The committee called for a firm date for a minimum broadband speed, better access to a choice of mobile phone providers, more affordable housing and improved access to finance for rural enterprises.

Chair of the committee, Anne McIntosh MP, said: “Broadband has become a basic utility yet thousands of people in rural communities have ridiculously slow speeds or no connection at all. The Universal Service Commitment of 2Mbps is crucial and meeting it must be prioritised over increasing speeds for those who already enjoy an adequate service.”

She added: “Rural England desperately needs more affordable housing yet the government's housing policies pay insufficient regard to the needs of rural communities.

“Failure to provide more of the right housing, at the right price and in the right place, will exacerbate the existing problems of unaffordability and inequality in parts of rural England.”

In response, a spokeswoman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We want our rural communities to be great places to live and work, which is why we're investing in rural broadband, mobile coverage and providing funding to develop and grow rural businesses.

“The Government is helping hard-working people all over the country who aspire to own a home through Help to Buy, which will help people get on to the housing ladder and boost housebuilding wherever there are housing shortages.”

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