Rural fair share campaign stepped up

by  Ruralcity Media

A campaign for fairer rural funding is being stepped up ahead of a crucial vote in the House of Commons in February.

It follows a government proposal to quadruple the rural services grant for local authorities delivering in services in the most sparsely populated rural areas.

Local government secretary Greg Clark said the government would increase the amount of the Rural Services Delivery grant from £15.5m to £65m in 2019-2020.

See also: Government quadruples rural services grant

By this time, when 100% business rate retention has been achieved, the government could consider what further correction is due, he said.

The announcement was made when Mr Clark delivered the government’s provisional funding settlement to parliament in December.

The Rural Services Network and the Rural Fair Share group of MPs are both campaigning for a fairer share of government funding for rural communities.

The campaign aims to reduce the rural penalty, which sees urban councils receive approximately 45% more funding per head of population than rural councils.

It is calling for £130m to be redistributed to rural councils when the government finalises its Local Government Finance Settlement in February.

This is the amount campaigners say the government still owes rural local authorities after it agreed to alter its funding formula in 2012 and give greater weighting to sparsity.

Rural Fair Share chairman Graham Stuart MP said: “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.”

The grant increase was welcome, but rural communities were still at a disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts, said Mr Stuart.

“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 £130m which our campaign has asked for, and that next year’s increase will only see the grant increased to £20m.”

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