Last Wednesday evening (9 January 2013), a cross-party group of more than 45 MPs gathered in Parliament to call on the government to reconsider the 2013/14 Local Government Financial Settlement which threatens to entrench the injustice suffered by rural areas by further widening the gap between the funding given to rural and urban councils.
Urban councils already receive 50% more per head than rural areas despite evidence that many services are more expensive to deliver in sparsely populated areas. Despite a commitment from Eric Pickles in December 2011 to reduce the inequality, the most recent provisional settlement instead cuts support for rural councils relative to that given to urban, widening the gap between the two, and further disadvantaging rural people.
The Rural Fair Share Campaign is calling on the government to do two things:
- Firstly, to amend the provisional settlement so that there is a modest reduction in the gap between rural and urban councils in the coming year;
- Secondly, for the Secretary of State to set out a plan to close the funding gap between rural and urban councils to no more than 40% by 2020;
The Chairman of the Rural Fair Share Campaign, Graham Stuart MP (Conservative, Beverley and Holderness) said:
“The rural voice has been silent for too long. Last week Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs came together to demand a fair share of government funding for rural councils. Enough is enough.
“Overall, rural residents earn less, on average, than those in cities, pay council tax which is £75 higher per head but see urban areas receive government grants 50% higher per head than those in the countryside. This means people in rural areas earn less, pay higher council tax and then receive substantially less support for services.
“We are not arguing for more government spending overall but for fair allocations within the spending envelope. When money is tight it is more important, rather than less important, for funding allocations to be fair.
“We are determined to stop the inadvertent worsening of the situation this year and also to campaign for a reduction in the rural penalty from 50% to 40% by 2020.”