The Rural Pinch


Britain’s rural-dwelling heating oil customers are expected to really feel the pinch over winter months this year. Research by the price comparison website Boilerjuice has found that households in Britain’s rural communities spend nearly £3,000 a year more on everyday essentials – like petrol and groceries – than those living in towns and cities.

The Boilerjuice research indicates that year-on-year rural inflation has averaged 5.4 per cent during 2017 so far, which is much higher than the official UK inflation rate. Data released this week put the consumer price index (CPI) at 3 per cent in September, up from 2 per cent at the start of the year. Rural residents spend an extra £540 a year on petrol and diesel and an extra £200 on vehicle maintenance than those living in urban areas, it is estimated. At the same time, around 1.6 million households in the UK rely on heating oil, rather than gas, to warm their homes. Electricity is more used in countryside homes than those in towns – the average annual electricity bill is around £814 for a rural household, compared to an average of £612 for all UK households.

Around 1.6 million homes in the UK aren’t connected to mains gas and therefore rely on heating oil, which makes up for a large contingent of rural dwellers’ fuel budgets. These households typically buy oil two or three times a year, storing the fuel in a tank in their garden. Someone paying 24p a litre in January 2016 was likely to pay in the region of 44p a litre in January this year.

There is a low tax on heating oil. But surely the government, when talking about fuel caps, should also look at the arrangements of rural dwellers, who have no choice but to buy expensive heating oils and who are worse placed than those in towns and cities to fall back on government assistance.