Government urged to honour rural fairer funding promise

Picture by Jane Coltman

Picture by Jane Coltman

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MPs and rural local authorities have called on the Government to honour a commitment to ensure rural communities receive fairer funding for public services.

The call is being made by the Rural Services Network and the Rural Fair Share Campaign, a cross-party group of MPs and other parliamentarians.

Together, the two bodies are calling for £130million promised by the Government to be allocated to individual rural local authorities and fire and rescue services. The £130million is the amount unpaid from an initial £255million promised in 2012 as being due to authorities in partial acknowledgement of the extra cost of providing services in rural areas.

Despite promising £255million, the network estimates that some 75 per cent of the exemplified gains pledged by the Government were lost to authorities due to damping and other changes.

Network chief executive Graham Biggs, MBE, said: “In times of reducing public expenditure it is more, rather than less, important to distribute available resources between different areas fairly. Based on the Government’s own words in 2012, the present grant distribution methodology is – in its outcomes – unfair to rural areas.”

Mr Biggs added: “It is time to act now – and distribute the balance of the exemplified funding in the 2016/17 Settlement Funding Assessment.”

Network calculations show that urban areas in 2015/16 still receive some 45 per cent (£130.99) per head in Settlement Funding Assessment grant more than their rural counterparts.

Rural residents pay, on average, £81 per head per year more in council tax than their urban counterparts due to receiving less government grant, said Mr Biggs. This means rural residents pay more, receive fewer services and, on average, earn less than those in urban areas – a position the network says is unfair.

The Rural Services Network and the Rural Fair Share Campaign accepts that Revenue Support Grant is likely to disappear during the lifetime of the current Parliament.

The two groups are therefore starting to focus attention on the way that local government funding will be provided in the future to ensure there is equity between urban and rural funding. Mr Biggs said: “A further period of gross unfairness will be completely unacceptable.”