Monday, 18 February 2013 09:49

Rural campaign starts to bear fruit

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural campaign starts to bear fruit

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, by local government minister Brandon Lewis, 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."

Speaking in response, Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: "The reference to "going to do more" refers to the changes in the needs block to the sparsity weightings and the one-off £8.5M.

"Nevertheless the additional one-off £8.5m of funding still means that the total grant to rural authorities has fallen about 2% more than that to urban authorities.

"With so few discretionary services left, rural authorities still face deeper cuts into their basic provision while their residents already pay higher council taxes than urban dwellers.

Mr Biggs continued: "We have been massively disappointed with the settlement this year. To us the impact of damping has been nonsensical.

"We desperately need to get the Government to understand the perilous situation that services in rural areas are reaching. We appreciate the gesture of the £8.5m and have the evidence to back up our figures and prove our case.

"We will also be able to demonstrate the impact of any further cuts on rural services.

"We therefore very much welcome the Minister's invitation for further discussions with rural constituency MPs, who we are happy to support."

People in this conversation

  • Guest (DEREK SMITH)

    Report

    I am delighted that there at last there appears to be at least recognition of the plight of those of us living in rural areas.
    Many rural communities have no mains gas supply and therefore frequently depend upon either LPG or oil for heating. Unlike mains gas and electricity these alternative sources have no social tariff leaving users in a "take it or leave it" situation. The problem is compounded by low income, poor housing standards and increasing levels of fuel poverty.

  • Guest (Chris Johnson)

    Report

    Without adequate funding the cuts are soon going to be very noticeable. In the last month our parish council were asked to prioritise one quarter of the street lights in the area for the district council to retain. The remaining three quarters will not be replaced when they fail. We are also facing the potential closure of the Highways depot, in an area with some of the highest, wettest roads in England.

  • The minister has accepted the principle of higher costs to rural areas, then introduced a new "damping mechanism" so that councils who depend more on govt grants would see less change in their grants. Result is a coach and horses through the rural support, biasing it back to urban areas! Could this be subject to judicial review, I wonder?

    from Welbourn, Lincolnshire LN5, UK

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