Our work on Local Government Finance is split into two areas, the Fairer Funding  campaign and a financial analysis of local authority budgets.

Fairer Funding

  • SPARSE Rural as an organisation defends the rural interest and the Sparsity Allowance in the Local Government funding formulae.
  • We consider the formula funding to be woefully inadequate.  It goes nowhere near to meeting the higher costs of operating essential services in rural areas.

Did you know that:

  • Spending Power per head is £99 less in rural areas than in urban areas … yet …
  • Council Tax is £79 higher per head in rural areas than in urban areas … this is because …
  • Formula Grant is £178 lower per head in rural areas than urban areas.

Put simply, rural communities are paying more for less provision in their local areas.

Rural Fair Share Group

The Rural Fair Share Group is a grouping of parliamentarians who have come together to argue for fairer funding for services across rural England. The Secretary of the Group is Graham Stuart MP.


Click here to view a presentation on Spending Power Analysis from March 2013 comparing Rural and Urban areas.

Click here to see the Governments Pledge on Rural Services


Local Government Finance Settlement

Below is an analysis provided to local authorities and rural MPs in January 2014 which illustrates the current rural to urban divide in the financial settlement 2014:

- Local Government Finance Settlement Analysis

Future areas of work:

  • Early Review of Localisation of Business Rates


Financial Analysis

We provide a range of analysis for local authorities, considering their individual RA position (revenue estimate) and RO position (Revenue Outturn) compared with other authorities and groups of authorities:

Sub Categories

RA Analysis

A yearly analysis of revenue estimate forms enabling you to judge your authority’s position in comparison with other authorities:

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RO Analysis

A yearly analysis of revenue outturn forms enabling comparison with authorities and the position relating to groups of authorities:

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Our Fairer Funding Campaign

"Because we are listening, we are going to do more to support rural areas and manage the extra costs of delivering services in those areas."

Brandon Lewis, Local Government Secretary on announcing the 2013/14 local government settlement on 13 February 2013

Working with our Members and by supporting an influential cross party group of MPs, the Rural Services Network has had a positive impact for rural areas in the 2013/14 Local Government Settlement.

What has been achieved?

•    A significant boost to the needs assessment of rural authorities by the increase in the sparsity weightings in a number of the formulae

•    The introduction of a special grant for ‘Efficiency Support for Services in Sparse Areas (ESSSA)’ which benefits some of the most sparsely populated local authorities

•    A series of acknowledgements by the Government that more needs to be done to support rural authorities and an invitation from Brandon Lewis to further discuss rural funding in 2014/15

•    A commitment by the Rural Fair Shares Group of over 50 rural MPs to continue to campaign for fairer funding in rural areas

How did this change local authority funding in rural areas?

We acknowledge that other formula changes, particularly damping, and the overall reduction in Government funding reversed a good proportion of the significant gains arising from changes to sparsity weightings in the formula. We believe that by bringing this to the Government’s attention (as well as the media) following the provisional settlement contributed to the development of the ESSSA grant.

It is fair to say that without the changes made to sparsity in the formula, rural authorities would have fared a great deal worse in the 2013/14 settlement. However, we feel that the changes in 2013/14 were insufficient to bridge the gap between rural and urban funding and this is why we aim to build upon our work and our relationship with Members and their rural MPs to further influence Government thinking over the next year.

Click here to see a technical analysis of the changes to formula grant and the gains from increases to sparsity weightings.

What happens next?

We intend to take up the invitation issued by Brandon Lewis to prove our case. Over the next year we will:

•    Write to Brandon Lewis to set out our solution for reducing the gap between urban and rural funding by ten percentage points over the next six years with a view to meeting Ministers and officials from DCLG

•    Support the Rural Fair Shares Campaign chaired by Graham Stuart MP in their own meetings with the Department for Communities and Local Government

•    Provide all Members with a view of the 2014/15 settlement and the shortfall in funding when compared with their nearest urban neighbour

•    Start to consider the impact of the Localised Business Rates system


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Annual Finance Seminars

To help with responding and reacting to the Annual Settlement consultation and to discuss key issues which are challenging Local Authority finance officers we are providing 8 free finance seminars in January 2014.

We hope to make this a part of our annual service to members.

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Government consultation on 100% Business Rate Retention and Call for evidence on Needs and Redistribution

1) 100% Business Rate Retention – CCN, RSN and DCN Shared Principles Statement

The County Councils Network (CCN), District Councils' Network (DCN) and Rural Services Network (RSN) have jointly welcomed the Government's intention to move to 100% retention of business rates by 2020. Clearly this is ambitious, complex, and challenging, but our networks can support this if it enables further devolution, ensures key services are sustainable over time, and allows localism to flourish.
We support this ambition on the basis that it will enable further local autonomy and self-reliance, as well as encouraging and rewarding future growth.
Clearly, the new system will be highly complex to design, but it must be made as simple and as fair as possible, and needs led from day one to ensure that local authorities are incentivised and rewarded for achieving growth........

To read the statement in full click here


2) Self Sufficient Local Government: 100% Business Rate Retention

"This consultation seeks views on the government's commitment to allow local government to retain 100% of the business rates that they raise locally. Specifically this consultation seeks to identify some of the issues that should be kept in mind when designing the reforms."
The deadline for responses to this consultation is Monday 26th September 2016 and we would urge all local authorities to consider the contents of the consultation paper and ensure that they respond.

3) Fair Funding Review: Call for evidence on Needs and Redistribution

"The government has announced it will undertake a fair funding review of what the needs assessment formula should be following the implementation of 100% business rates retention. As a first step, alongside this consultation, the government has issued a call for evidence which sets out the key questions that will need to be addressed as part of this review."
This call for evidence includes key questions on the types of formula that should be considered and also the damping process. The deadline for responses is 26 September 2016.


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Latest tweets


Unlocking digital potential
A consultation on 'Unlocking Rural Britain's Digital Potential' has been launched. More details here

Brexit module

For information about the full implications and the repercussions on rural areas click here

BBC Countryfile Magazine

Countryfile magazine
For the latest issue of BBC Countryfile magazine, click here

funding module website

Fairer Funding
For our Fairer Funding campaign information click here


For analysis and comment on key rural services, click here.


Local Authority pages
To access tailored information on your local authority, click here


Parliamentary Group
For the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, click here.

Our Events

Our Events
For Rural Services Network events and notable dates, click here.