According to the IPPR North's report A new rural agenda, Whitehall must 'mainstream' rural issues into national policy challenges because Britain is failing to achieve a fair and equal society in its rural areas.
It says: 'Pensioner poverty remains stubbornly high, a lack of access to public services can have disastrous consequences on the most vulnerable, and local communities have little power to address social problems in their midst. Major progress is necessary.'
It criticises a lack of clarity in developing policy because too often the problems of rural areas and their communities are separated from the broader social and economic issues.
It adds: 'Too often rural policy is left in its traditional position on the fringes of more established policy fields. This position is reinforced by the fact DEFRA plans to spend just over 3% of its total budget on rural policy during 2007-2008.'
DEFRA said: '[Our] policy has been to build on and sustain existing community ties in rural areas, by working through the voluntary and parish councils sectors and seeking opportunities to build the capacity of rural communities to meet their own needs.'