The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Urban Councils budget to spend double that of rural on discretionary services

Research, completed by the Rural Services Network has shown that Urban Councils budget to spend double that of rural councils on discretionary services per head for the year 2023 – 2024.

Rural authorities have long suffered from underfunding by successive Governments through the Local Government Finance Settlement.  Following extensive work by the Rural Services Network to raise the profile of this issue, the Government carried out a consultation to amend its formula and some changes were made in 2012/2013 which would have meant that more funding was allocated to rural councils. 

However, in order to ensure that council budgets are not subject to large swings in allocations, a process called ‘damping’ was applied which would have gradually enabled the funding to flow to those rural councils, the formula said should receive them.

Sadly this process was then ‘frozen’ in place as a result of external factors such as Brexit, and the covid pandemic.  As a result, there are councils receiving millions more than the Government’s own formula says that they should, and rural councils are missing out on their allocations.

This leaves rural councils at a disadvantage with the first call on their resources being for their statutory services.  This has resulted in the situation where urban councils can budget to spend double that of rural councils per head on discretionary services.

For public transport, so vital in rural areas to connect residents with public services, employment and training opportunities, urban councils budgeted to spend 7 times that of rural councils, excluding concessionary fares. 

Productivity and wages earned in the rural economy are lower, an area ripe therefore for investment and focus, however in the area of economic and community development, vital to help get the economy moving, the budgeted expenditure for predominantly urban councils was 49% greater than rural per head of population.

Kerry Booth, Chief Executive of the RSN said:

“Our rural communities should not have to suffer this disadvantage, which leaves long lasting effects across our rural communities as the lack of investment and lack of services leaves them isolated and trailing behind our urban centres.

We know that there is a finite amount of money available, but rural should have their fair share of the pot.  Rural voters will play a key role in the next election, and the political parties need to start listening to their concerns.”

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