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 Chairman of the Group is Graham Stuart MP.
An insight to the groups purpose is provided by Mr Stuart:
"The Rural Fair Share campaign was established to encourage the Government to address the ongoing disparity in funding between rural and urban areas. The campaign will bring together Members of both Houses of Parliament, along with organisations, community groups, and individuals concerned about the welfare of our rural communities.
The Rural Fair Share campaign supports impartial, objective, needs based policy which is equitable to all. It will also help Members of Parliament who represent the countryside to do a better job of making our case about the needs of rural areas
According to a report by the Rural Services Network, rural residents earn less, on average, than those in cities, pay council tax which is £100 higher per head, and see urban areas receive government grants fifty per cent higher per head than those in the countryside. This means people in the country earn less, pay higher council tax and then receive substantially less support for services. Delivering services in sparsely populated rural areas also tends to be more expensive, which can add to the burden".
In January 2013 The Rural Fair Share campaign issued a press release regarding fairer funding for rural areas which can be found here.
We can confirm that DCLG and DEFRA have jointly commissioned LG Futures to undertake a research project to establish whether rural authorities face additional and unavoidable costs in delivering services, compared to urban authorities. They will be selecting a number of authorities as part of a stratified sample to take part in the study and are inviting all authorities nationally to express interest in taking part in the fieldwork element of this research. The research will consider both rural and urban factors. For example, rural authorities may face cost pressures due to distance, but urban authorities might equally face cost pressures for the same service due to congestion.
The research aims to:
• Review the evidence for costs and cost drivers for rural and non-rural service delivery
• Measure and attribute the unit costs of local authority services as accurately as possible given the evidence
• Determine the differences between rural and non-rural costs, and any unavoidable costs for rural areas, which are additional to those for non-rural areas.
The data, evidence and conclusions from the research will form part of the evidence base for future decisions on local government funding.
The fieldwork is due to be completed by the end of September 2014. If that timetable can be kept to there would appear to be opportunities to see outcomes reflected in the settlement for 2015-16 but the timetable is clearly an ambitious one.
The Rural Services Network and the Local Government Association are on the Steering Group for the project, there has been one initial meeting of this group to date and two others are planned in the contract period.
Obviously we would like member authorities to input as much as they possibly can. This is our opportunity to provide evidence to DCLG and DEFRA about the additional costs that we believe rural areas face.
The letter that has been sent to all local authorities can be accessed here
THE Rural Services Network has welcomed a government promise to do more to support and manage the extra costs of delivering public services in the countryside.
The pledge was made by local government minister Brandon Lewis on 13 February 2013. It follows a campaign by the Rural Services Network for a fairer deal for rural local authorities.
Mr Lewis said he had already spoken to individual local authority leaders, councillors and other representatives. And he pledged that he would continue listening.
He said: "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."
Mr Lewis also confirmed that he was open to having further discussions about the perceived disparity between rural and urban funding.
He said: "I have an open-door policy and am very happy to continue discussions, and I hope rural areas will be able to put together evidence -- perhaps through their Rural Services Network -- to back up some of their figures and prove their case."
To watch an extract from the debate, click on the video above. The full Hansard transcript from the House of Commons debate can be viewed here.