Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 06:48 UK

Cheap transport call to help poor

A bus in north Wales
The assembly government is urged to extend concessionary bus fares

Free and cheaper public transport should be more widely available in Welsh rural areas to combat poverty, says a report by assembly members.

The rural development sub-committee says the Welsh Assembly Government is not doing enough to help rural poor.

It also recommends that ministers try to build more than the current target of 6,500 affordable homes by 2011.

The assembly government said it was aware of the issues and was working to address them.

The Rural Deprivation in Wales report, which will be launched at the Royal Welsh Show, said fuel, travel costs and house prices were all higher in many rural areas than in urban areas, while average incomes tended to be lower.

But all too often, poverty was seen as a purely urban phenomenon, said the AMs.

Members said this had to change, with the assembly government doing more to deal with problems of poverty and deprivation.

For the whole community in terms of accessing jobs, public services, without transport it's impossible
Alun Davies AM

The AMs want a broadening of concessionary bus fare schemes to allow older people to access cheaper travel on other modes of transport, such as trains, where adequate bus provision is not available.

The committee also wants to see cheaper transport for young people.

It also recommends that planning guidance be strengthened to enable more affordable housing to be developed in rural areas and to allow local authorities to release more land for this purpose.

'Additional costs'

Mid and West Wales Labour AM Alun Davies, the chair of the committee, said transport was "fundamental" to the eradication of poverty in rural Wales.

"For young people who want to take part in after school or pre-school activities, for young people who simply want to socialise, without access to transport they can't do it," he said.

"For the whole community in terms of accessing jobs, public services, without transport it's impossible.

"People in rural Wales already suffer huge amounts of additional costs in terms of transport and housing, for example, on wages that are on average lower than those in urban Wales.

"If the government is going to eradicate poverty across the face of Wales they need to address issues about transport, access to better paid jobs and at the same time housing for people in rural Wales."

Low income

Carl Cooper, chief executive of the Powys Association of Voluntary Associations, said for too long rural poverty had been "hidden, invisible and ignored".

"The recent rise in fuel prices, combined with the scarcity of public transport results in an ever increasing difficulty in accessing crucial, public services," he said.

"Our rural communities suffer because of low levels of income and a shortage of jobs.

"As a consequence, there is a skills drain as experienced and knowledgeable citizens abandon rural Wales in order to find work."

A spokesman for the assembly government said: "The Welsh Assembly Government is very aware of the need to address poverty in rural areas.

"Ministers and officials across departments are working closely together on this. We will consider the committee's report in detail and respond in due course."

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