YORKSHIRE’S rural communities face serious challenges on several fronts.
Poverty hidden behind apparently idyllic facades, a lack of affordable housing and young people moving away all pose threats to their future.
Further evidence of how radically life in the countryside is changing is provided by the financial difficulties facing schools in North Yorkshire, with one in five set to be in deficit by the end of the academic year.
This is a troubling state of affairs, all the more so because it is not due to mismanagement, but an upheaval in the nature of rural society, which is altogether more difficult to address.
Problems faced by schools are inextricably bound up with the wider issues facing the countryside, notably the population decline in villages as younger people head for urban areas where there is more work and homes they can afford to buy.
The closure of a village school is devastating for the community it serves, not only as the loss of a focal point that unites everybody, but because it discourages families from living there, which can only aggravate the exodus of the young.
North Yorkshire County Council’s assertion that Government funding for rural schools is inadequate is surely correct.
Yet a proper level of financial support for education is only part of the answer.
If our region’s rural communities are to thrive, the Government must attend to their broader needs, including concerns about poverty and housing, and work with the countryside to help it build a sustainable future.