Government out of touch in the countryside

Almost two people in three believe the Government does not understand the needs of the countryside, according to a new poll.

And only one in five believe that rural life has improved since Labour's general election victory, according to the poll carried out for BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However a majority of the 1,000 people questioned said that life was still better in the countryside than in cities.

Some 61 per cent of people taking part in the ICM poll said that the Government did not understand the needs of the countryside, compared to 27 per cent who thought it did.

Twice as many - 42 per cent - thought that conditions in the countryside had worsened since the 1997 election as those - 21 per cent - who thought they had improved.

And 48 per cent said that Britain's farmers should be subsidised with Government money, against 41 per cent who said they should not.

The poll comes in advance of a Government White Paper on the countryside, which Environment Minister Michael Meacher intends will tackle problems of declining villages, rural transport, low-cost housing and poverty in the countryside.

Mr Meacher said: "We have been listening and thinking extremely carefully about the content of this White Paper in order to deliver our vision.

"It is several inter-connected themes - we are looking for the regeneration of rural areas, and let's not forget that we inherited half of the villages in this country with no shop, general store, post office, school or GP surgery."

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