Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales has renewed calls for the Welsh Government to commit to developing a strategy to address rural poverty in Wales.
Mr Campbell’s calls follow recent figures, published by Loughborough University on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition, that showed over a third (33.3 per cent) of children in Powys are living in poverty.
Challenging the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to commit to developing a focused strategy on addressing rural poverty, Mr Campbell also highlighted wider challenges within rural communities that contributed towards a pattern of “entrenched poverty” over the course of many years and generations.
Mr Campbell said: “The true extent of rural poverty is often masked by the relative affluence of some rural areas and a wider culture of self-reliance within our rural communities.
“Rural communities across Powys face many unique pressures that have contributed towards a pattern of long-term entrenched poverty. These include poor access to public transport, patchy public service provision, a lack of affordable housing, and relatively low incomes and high prices. Sadly, the developing cost-of-living crisis over recent months has merely exacerbated these factors and plunged many families into financial hardship and uncertainty.”
Previous research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that most rural households typically spend 10-20 per cent more on everyday goods and services compared to those living in more urban areas. A recent report by Sustrans Cymru also emphasised that people living in rural areas of Wales are some of the worst affected by transport poverty - with households likely to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on the costs of running a car.
Such financial pressures were further emphasised with research from the Bevan Foundation, published last year, finding that median earnings in May 2022 were the lowest in Wales in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Gwynedd and Powys.
Mr Campbell added: “The hardship being faced by Wales’ rural communities is a wake-up call – and inaction in addressing such rural poverty may very well become Welsh Labour’s legacy in Wales.
“It’s time the Welsh Government committed to better identifying the many unique and exclusive factors that contribute towards this rural poverty, and work with stakeholders to bring together a strategy and vision to better empower and aid these communities”.
Speaking in response to Mr Campbell’s calls for a specific rural poverty strategy, First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said:
“I recognise that there are certain factors that are unique to people living in rural areas, and I can agree with what the Member said. It is sometimes difficult to identify poverty in some of our rural communities.
“Of course, every part of Wales is facing a challenge at the moment—whether you live in the Valleys, in the centre of Cardiff, there are unique challenges in all parts of Wales. I can tell the Member that a plan will be drawn up. The Minister for Social Justice is currently working on practical steps that we can take to help, particularly in the area of child poverty.