Clarity on future funding for rural local authorities

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The Rural Services Network (RSN) is calling for clarity for councils after the Local Government Finance Bill was omitted from the Government’s legislative programme for the next two years in the Queen’s Speech.

Local-authority finance chiefs and councillors from rural areas came together earlier this week to discuss the current situation and how it may affect them moving forward.

Local Government was due to be required to adopt a 100 per cent Business Rate Retention Scheme to replace the Revenue Support Grant by 2020/21 as the mechanism for funding local services.

But authorities are now waiting for the Government to set out in detail the approach – and timetable – to local government funding post 2019/20, less than three years away.

RSN chief executive, Graham Biggs, said: “Local authorities need certainty to enable them to plan their budgets and spending.

“One of the aims of 100 per cent business rate retention was to encourage economic growth and to incentivise areas to support economic development in their local area.

“However, some rural areas are constrained by such things as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty which can make development more challenging.”

The RSN has long argued that the Government’s approach to funding rural areas is unfair and has historically put rural local authorities at a disadvantage due to receiving a significantly lower government grant. For example, in 2017/18, it is 45 per cent less per head of population than for urban counterparts.