As the Conservative Party leadership contest accelerates, the Countryside Alliance is emphasising the importance of candidates prioritising rural communities.

Chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner, believes that the countryside has been taken for granted over the past few years.

"The interests of rural people have been seen as entirely secondary to ‘eye catching’ environmental and animal welfare policies," he said.

But he believes that rural communities "hold the keys to Number 10 [Downing St.] as much as any other group in the country" and thus its needs must not be overlooked.

"Rural people need to know that their way of life will be protected and that the cost-of-living crisis that is affecting rural communities as deeply as any part of the country is going to be addressed," he said.

"Clearly, with fuel costs spiralling out of control in the countryside, prioritizing an urgent VAT cut on fuel would go a long way to alleviating the pain for many in their daily lives."

Over half of respondents to a recent Countryside Alliance snap survey, the alliance said, claim that costs to fill up their oil tanks have increased by a staggering 50%. Individual well-being and family life are impacted, it added, with 45% reporting greater anxiety and sleeplessness.

Furthermore, the Alliance said that nearly eight out of 10 respondents worry that increases in the cost of heating oil will make it harder for them to heat their homes this winter and 20% fear they will soon not be able to earn a living in their current line of employment

"The Alliance will be giving careful scrutiny to the policies proposed by all Conservative leadership candidates and will ensure that our members and supporters are informed of the position each is taking on key rural policies," Bonner added.