A Norfolk MP is campaigning for targeted rural tax breaks in next week's budget to help correct a "crippling" disparity in energy and fuel costs.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has written to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, asking for new measures to tackle "disproportionately high energy costs on rural communities".

Government data shows low-income rural areas are 150pc more vulnerable to high energy costs than those in towns and cities, he says.

Mr Freeman's letter highlights factors including isolated rural homes being more exposed to cold weather and less energy-efficient, with many off the gas grid.

Meanwhile, the scarcity of public transport increases rural reliance on cars, leaving drivers more vulnerable to rising fuel prices.

All of this, exacerbated by lower average wages in the countryside, contributes to an unfair "rural energy tax" which has been heightened by cost spikes caused by the war in Ukraine, he says.

The MP is urging the chancellor to implement targeted one-off actions such as a "fair fuel premium tax cut", targeted at homes and businesses in rural postcodes, to address this "cripplingly disproportionate spike in the rural cost of living".

Mr Freeman said: "Being in London mid week and back home in Norfolk at weekends it’s very striking how different the cost of living and energy is.

"While here in Norfolk many of us are off the gas grid and rely on heating oil and have to run cars to get to work or access public services - people in London enjoy easy transport on the tube and buses, and much lower heating and transport costs.

"Without targeted relief to rural areas I fear we will see a surge in bankruptcies, home repossessions, rising benefit claims for low-income households, as well as continued pressure on rural schools, GPs, pharmacies, care homes and all other services which are required to operate in the higher cost rural areas."

Mr Freeman said his campaign is backed by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and more than 30 rural MPs from across the country.

It comes after polling results last week which found Labour had narrowly overtaken the Tories among countryside voters in the build-up to a general election.

“As the prime minister has rightly highlighted - rural areas have different needs too often overlooked in Whitehall policy and the rural vote cannot be taken for granted by anyone," said Mr Freeman.