rory demands fairer funding for rural communities
Following months of lobbying and campaign work, Rory and Chair of the APPG on Local Democracy, has called on Government to recognise the significantly higher costs faced by local authorities in rural areas in a backbench debate on Monday. The debate precedes a local government financial settlement bill for 2013-14 which faces a vote by MPs on Wednesday, 13 February.
Figures released by the Rural Services Network show that on average, rural residents pay council tax which is £75 higher per head of population, yet receive substantially less support for service provision. Current proposals will see rural residents receiving approximately 65% of the grant given to urban dwellers, and for significantly rural areas – like Eden – authorities will face cuts of close to 5% as opposed to an average cut of 2% to urban councils. This equates to a reduction in spending power of 2.10% for authorities in rural areas. As their service levels, out of necessity, start at a thinner level and are more expensive to run, it is feared the impact of current proposals will have a severely detrimental impact on rural communities.
Speaking in the House of Commons chamber, Rory said:
“Rural councils have inherited a situation in which they are significantly less well funded per head than urban councils.”
“We are talking not about individuals, wealthy second-home owners or people who retire to the countryside, but about organic, living communities of the sort that we prize in this country and that everyone in the Chamber prizes—communities containing young families, living small farms and a living school. Those things desperately depend on how rural councils are funded, however, and they face a perfect storm. Ministers are not the only people putting pressures on them. It is important to understand the overall context in which agri-environmental schemes, the huge movement towards supermarkets and capitalism itself have eroded rural communities.”
“The decision that Government makes today will determine whether instead of a network of small farms, organic communities and vibrant villages, we end up with nothing but a wilderness for millionaires.”