The grant set up to help rural authorities deliver services in the countryside has been given a massive increase in the government’s local government finance settlement announced yesterday.
This breakthrough follows years of effort by Graham Stuart, the Beverley and Holderness MP and founder of the Rural Fair Share Campaign.
He led a delegation of dozens of rural MPs to meet with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government just weeks ago and has built cross-party consensus in Parliament through a succession of debates, meetings and briefing papers.
The Rural Services Delivery Grant, which provides additional resources to councils in rural areas to meet the additional costs associated with sparse populations, will increase from £15.5 million in 2015/16 to £65 million in 2019/20.
This follows years of cross-party campaigning from Graham and other members of the Rural Fair Share Campaign to close the funding gap, which sees urban areas receive on average 45% more funding per resident than rural areas.
Commenting after the statement, Graham said: “The increase in the Rural Services Delivery Grant is good news.
“It’s the most significant increase we’ve seen yet, and I’m grateful to the Secretary of State for listening to the concerns of rural MPs from all sides of the House.
“I am pleased that he recognises the unfairness of the current system, which sees poorer, older, and more heavily taxed rural residents receive fewer local government services.
“It’s disappointing that the Government hasn’t committed to the full £130 million which our campaign has asked for, and that next year’s increase will only see the grant increased to £20 million.
“There’s a long way to go yet, and we will be campaigning to improve the deal further before the vote in the House of Commons in February.”
In response to Graham’s question in the Chamber, Greg Clark said: “I pay tribute to my honourable Friend, who has been a persistent and effective campaigner, drawing attention to the special costs that the most sparse rural authorities face in providing services.
“We have gone a long way, based on the evidence we have seen, to address those needs. I and my colleagues will be happy to meet my hon. Friend and other colleagues to discuss how it will work out in practice.”
Notes to Editors
1. The Rural Fair Share Campaign, chaired by Graham Stuart MP, is a cross-party group of MPs, who support an impartial, objective, needs-based approach to local government funding. The campaign aims to reduce the rural penalty, which sees urban councils receive approximately 45% more funding per head than rural councils. Further information about the campaign can be found at www.ruralfairshare.org.uk.
2. A transcript of the Statement to the House of Commons by the Secretary of State can be found here.
3. The DCLG webpage with further details of the provisional settlement can be found here.