The Campaign

The Rural Fair Share Campaign is a cross-party group of MPs, who support an impartial, objective, needs-based approach and a fair share of available national resources to both local government funding and the funding by central government of other essential public service.

Campaign Chairman – Derek Thomas MP

I am delighted to have been appointed Chairman of the Rural Fair Share Campaign group, a group which champions fair funding and treatment of rural areas. I have been a member of the group since 2015, shortly after I was elected as Member of Parliament for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (St Ives). Having left the EU we will have full responsibility for our domestic policies and we must ensure that no community is left behind. Every person living in a rural area should have the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. As Chairman, I will do all in my power to support the group and ensure when developing policies the Government takes into account the unique needs of rural areas and the significant role rural communities play in the wider economy.

The Problem:

The key issues regarding local government and other public services funding for rural areas are:

–  Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services in rural areas.  Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and therefore pay proportionately more of their earnings from the local economy in Council Tax than their urban counterparts yet receive fewer local government services.

– Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding by local council tax payers than their urban counterparts.

The Rural Fair Share Campaign demands fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas:

The Final Settlement for Local Government Finance 2022-23, still shows that despite years of funding gaps not being resolved:

  • Rural areas in 22/23 will still receive some 37% (£105) per head in Settlement Funding Assessment grant LESS than their urban counterparts
  • Rural residents will pay, on average, 21% (£104) per head MORE in Council Tax than their urban counterparts due to receiving less government grant
  • Rural residents will get 14% per head LESS in social care support overall

Rural residents pay more, receive fewer services and, on average, earn less than those in urban areas and that is inequitable.

There is also evidence that services are more expensive to deliver in rural areas because of the additional costs associated with the sparse geography.

Rural areas often make great use of the limited public funds received. This has sometimes been used as an excuse to provide them with less funding.

The Solution:

In times of reducing public expenditure, it is more – rather than less – important to distribute available resources fairly. It is essential that the Government gives rural areas a fair share of available national resources.

The Government agreed in 2012 to give greater weighting to sparsity in the local government funding formula. When the new formula was applied, rural areas stood to gain £250m.

But some three-quarters of these gains were lost due to “damping” – a method used by the Government to minimise big swings in funding grants.

The campaign is calling for rural local authorities to receive the money outstanding from the change to the formula in 2012.

What has the Fair Share Campaign achieved?

Following sustained lobbying from the Rural Fair Share Campaign in 2012, a one-off “Efficiency Support for Services in SPARSE areas grant” was awarded to rural local authorities, worth £8.5m that year. This has steadily increased to £85Million and is now called Rural Services Delivery Grant.

The Rural Services Delivery Grant is not awarded to all local authorities delivering services in rural areas.  The Government should increase the criteria for this grant so that all councils facing additional costs of delivering services in rural, sparsely populated areas can receive it.

The formula which distributes funding to different local authorities is under review at present and the Rural Fair Share Campaign will seek to ensure that there is no repeat of historic unfairness for rural areas.