North Yorkshire rural communities hit by Ukraine war and cost of living, leader warns
The war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis have compounded issues brought to light in last year’s landmark Rural Commission report.
Now, 12 months on, the chairman of the North Yorkshire Rural Taskforce, Richard Flinton, has admitted that a wave of unexpected issues on the global stage has had a profound impact on thousands of people living in isolated communities in the county.
Livestock feed prices have also increased due to the war, causing issues for farmers, Mr Flinton said.
He said: “The rural commission was established to help tackle wide-ranging issues that have long affected the countryside.
“A significant amount of progress has been made, but no-one could have anticipated the additional challenges which the nation, and in particular countryside communities, are facing.
“These new challenges are unquestionably mounting extra pressures on those who live across North Yorkshire’s rural areas, accentuating the issues from a lack of affordable housing to helping ensure young people are given the career opportunities they expect and deserve.
“The work of the rural taskforce has been invaluable in helping tackle these long-running issues, and we remain committed to working to resolve the new and emerging challenges.
“It will not be easy, but the future viability of the countryside is not only vital to North Yorkshire, but also the country as a whole.”
The Rural Commission listed 47 topics which will be addressed by the taskforce over the next five years.
In the first 12 months of the taskforce’s work, four actions have already been completed, including work to support farming and rural schools, a spokesperson for the taskforce said.
One of the biggest issues highlighted by the commission was the need to tackle the critical lack of affordable housing in North Yorkshire’s rural communities.
Radical solutions which are being considered in North Yorkshire include a proposed 100 per cent premium on the council tax bills for second home owners, in the hope of freeing up properties for local communities.
The authorities covering the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks have also agreed to housing strategies which are in line with the commission’s recommendation that new affordable homes should be built in every parish across the county over the next decade.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said: “The challenges faced by rural communities in North Yorkshire cannot be separated out from the national context and the development and direction of national policy.
“The Government’s recognition and intervention is critical across all policy areas, from rural transport to more funding for education and support for the farming sector, which have been investigated by both the commission and the rural taskforce.
“Increased funding, additional support as well as a genuine commitment to fairness and equality in rural areas is critical if the Government is serious about realising its own ambitions to level up the country.”