rory campaigns for a fairer deal for cumbria’s councils
Rory campaigns at Emergency Meeting in Parliament
Rory, Chair of the APPG on Local Democracy, attended an emergency meeting of rural MPs this evening, organised by the Rural Fair Share Campaign. The meeting was convened to highlight the urgent need for government to recognise the potentially disastrous impact of the 2013/14 Local Government Finance Settlement, whereby rural councils could see their budgets diminish significantly – in spite of recent assurances that the cost of delivering services in rural areas would be recognised in the legislation. Under current proposals, rural residents stand to get approximately 65% of the grant that their urban equivalents will receive. For significantly rural areas – like Eden – authorities will see cuts of closer to 5% as opposed to an average cut of 2% to urban councils.
Speaking at the event, Rory said: “Rural areas are being treated unfairly. This is not about trying to take money from urban areas, but about recognising that services cost much, much more to deliver in rural areas. Our taxpayers have higher-than-average council tax bills, and yet their pound is expected to stretch further and further. At the moment, we simply aren’t getting a good enough return in terms of the services our councils can afford to deliver. We need, urgently, to make this fairer and more equitable, recognising that life in somewhere like Eden or Allerdale is costly. Any funding mechanism needs to work to our advantage, recognising our unique issues of sparsity.”
The Rural Services Network’s chief executive Graham Biggs said: “This is a body blow for rural councils already struggling to provide services to countryside communities. Even before these reductions urban areas received about half as much more funding per head than rural areas. This settlement further widens the gap. Rural residents already pay more council tax for fewer services because of historic government underfunding, so the settlement is very bad news for the countryside.”
There is a widening gap in rural areas between the average wage, and the average council tax bill. For 2012/ 2013, the average council tax bill in Eden is £1530 per house. As a striking comparison, the London area average over the same period is only £1304. In addition to this, the current formula grant equates to a spend of approximately £330 per head in Eden as compared to £525 in Newcastle, or £565 Greenwich.