And the lack of employment opportunities and rural remoteness is leading to a ‘brain drain’ where teenagers move out of their home county to university in cities and never return, increasing the ‘dependency ratio’ of counties well above the national average.
An inquiry by a cross-party group of MPs has found that the least socially mobile areas in England are rural counties, and those areas are held back by an ‘outdated’ and ‘inequitable’ method of funding councils, and the false perception they are affluent.
The report, Social Mobility in Counties, by the County All-Party-Parliamentary Group and County Councils Network blames the current way of funding councils and growing financial strain on their budgets as helping to embed a cycle of low social mobility.
Eight of the ten least socially mobile areas in England are rural county areas, the report found.
The report finds that transport networks in particular are a major hindrance to social mobility in counties.
MPs say the perception of counties as affluent areas has masked deep-seated socio-economic challenges and deprivation in shire counties, while the additional costs of delivering rural services are also not fully recognised in the way funding is allocated to councils.
The report outlines that councils in London receive £482 per head, whilst metropolitan boroughs and cities receive £351 per head, compared to £182 per person for public services in county areas – including Wiltshire.