Fivefold rise in rural services grant

THE government has announced a fivefold increase in its Rural Services Delivery Grant from £15.5m to £80.5m.

It follows months of work on behalf of rural communities and local authorities by the Rural Services Network.

The Rural Fair Share group of MPs has also been campaigning for a fairer deal for rural communities.

Communities secretary Greg Clark also announced two years of transitional relief for local authorities hardest hit by measures previously unveiled in a provisional settlement last December.

The announcement was made in a final local government finance settlement for 2016/17settlement for 2016/17 presented to the House of Commons on Monday (8 February).

In recognition of the additional cost of providing services in sparse rural areas, Mr Clark said the Rural Services Delivery Grant would increase from £15.5m this year to £80.5m in 2016/17.

Rural areas would benefit from a total of £260.5m in Rural Services Delivery Grant over the course of the four-year settlement, he said.

"Today's settlement means every council will have, for the financial year ahead, at least the resources allocated by the provisional settlement.

"In addition, we will provide transitional funding for the first two years of the Spending Review period for councils as they move from dependence on central government grants to greater financial autonomy." 

The Rural Services Network welcomed the increase but said it would continue to press for full and fair funding for rural areas.

A promised review of the needs assessment moving towards the 100% Business Rates retention proposal would also require a shared rural voice, it said.

With this firmly in mind, the network will continue its work in ensuring fair funding for rural communities.

"We work with the Rural Fair Share Group of MPs and the Rural Services APPG - both of which are all party groups," it said.

"Together, as has proved to be the case here, we can achieve appropriate recognition of the rural position."

Mr Clark described the government's announcement as "an historic settlement for town halls, paving the way for councils to have greater financial freedom" from Whitehall.

At the same time, the government had responded to calls from local government to make funding adult social care a key priority, he said.

The four-year financial settlement wouid transform the relationship between central and local government, said Mr Clark.

This was something councils had been calling for over a number of decades, he said.

The settlement was broadly welcomed by rural MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday (10 February).

Responding to the announcement, Nottinghamshire Sherwood MP Mark Spencer said the four-year settlement meant councils would no longer have to live from day to day not knowing what their budget settlement would be in the next year.

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish said: "I welcome a review of the fair share for rural areas.

"The rural fair share campaign, which has been running for many years, is about making sure that funds keep coming across to help us deal with not only our elderly populations, but the things such as small schools and rubbish collections that cost so much more to provide in rural areas.

"We need a fair deal. I look forward to the Secretary of State's keeping up his good work, but we want to see delivery."

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said rurality and sparsity were also key issues for his county.

To view your authority's comparison between the provisional and final settlement click here.


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