Tuesday, 05 November 2013 08:24

MPs pile on pressure over rural funding

Written by  Ruralcity Media
MPs pile on pressure over rural funding

MORE than 100 petitions calling for fairer rural funding have been presented by MPs to the government.

The cross-party group of MPs formally presented petitions from 119 rural constituencies to the government on Monday (4 November).

It is thought to have been one of the largest such petitions ever gathered and will now be passed to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Currently, urban councils receive 50% more government grant per head than local authorities in rural areas.

This is despite the fact that rural residents pay on average £85 per head more in council tax and many public services are more expensive to deliver for sparsely-populated councils

The petitions - totalling some 20,000 public signatures - oppose government plans to lock-in this inequality for the next six years and call for the funding gap to be reduced by at least 10% by 2020.

Graham Stuart MP, who chairs the parliamentary Rural Fair Share campaign, said the petitions showed the strength of feeling among people in rural areas.

"We set up the Rural Fair Share campaign because the rural voice has been too little heard and too easily ignored.

"Historic injustices have been reinforced rather than removed.

"This must change. I hope that the government recognises the strength of feeling out there and considers this as we move towards the next Local Government Finance Settlement."

In a separate development the government last week issued its response to an EFRA Committee inquiry into rural communities.

In its report the committee supported the Rural Fair Share campaign's calls for the rural/urban funding disparity to be reduced to 40% or less by 2020.

But in its response the government disagreed with this recommendation, citing that producing figures at a national level for per-capita spending is "inherently problematic" due to the multi-tier system of local government in England.

Roger Begy, chairman of SPARSE-Rural and Leader of Rutland County Council said: "We agree that calculating the rural penalty is inherently difficult, but the various methods discussed with DCLG all put it at 50% or greater.

"The Government's claim that "funding per head of population is reducing less in predominantly rural authorities than in their urban counterparts in all classes of authority" is grossly misleading.

"There are no rural London Boroughs or Metropolitan Districts, so their very high funding levels are completely excluded from DCLG's comparison. These petitions represent the latest development in an issue that is not going away for this government."

The Rural Services Network is also calling for an agreed definition of "rurality" for analysing local government funding, something which is not currently in place.

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