The DETR is bidding for an extra£450m to add to the existing three-year spend of£540m.
A leaked draft of a DETR consultation document discusses the bid and recognises that 'there are significant numbers of people experiencing poverty in rural areas, even in relatively afluent ones.'
It adds: ' ...there is an increasing disparity between the economic performance of the most disadvantaged rural areas and elsewhere.'
An aide to Mr Prescott said yesterday: 'There is a need to demonstrate our commitment to the countryside. This sends a signal of what's to come in the white paper.'