Thursday, 23 November 2017 09:27

Council's plea for fairer rural funding

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Council's plea for fairer rural funding

NORTH Yorkshire County Council has called on the government to give long-term fairer funding to large rural counties.

Council leaders warn that with the prospect of austerity continuing through to 2022, the funding handicap faced by rural areas is exacerbating the pressure on services.

People in North Yorkshire paid almost twice as much council tax in relative terms as those in urban and London boroughs like Westminster and Camden, they said.

But at the same time they received less government funding, yet the costs tended to be higher.

The council would therefore continue to push for a fairer government funding deal particularly given the higher numbers of older people – and the higher costs of delivering services in a large rural county with sparse populations.

The Rural Services Network has been leading the charge for fairer funding over a number of years.

The government awarded some welcome transitional relief in the last budget for rural authorities to offset the downward trend in grant income but that is due to run out this year.

By April 2019, North Yorkshire County Council is due to receive no core government funding whereas some councils such as those in London will continue to receive significant levels of government funding.

That is why the county council is backing the government’s review of council funding and looking for a fairer deal for rural counties.

Council leader Carl Les said: "We are a high performing, low spending council praised for having an innovative can-do culture but we are concerned that overall the needs of rural areas are given low priority.

"We continue to protect the frontline and we are developing as an ambitious and commercial council that can generate its own income.

"But without fairer long-term funding we face very hard choices ahead."

The longer term position remained largely unchanged with the county council having to save a further £43m from its revenue budget by 2019/20, said Mr Les.

The council has plans for £33m and a savings gap of £10m remains before news of the next funding settlement is made.

This gives a total of £169.4m saved over the decade - which represents a reduction of 34 per cent in the council’s spending power.

At the same time, the county council is seeking to address important longer term needs.

It is using one-off money for important projects – including upgrading roads, coastal erosion projects and delivering superfast broadband. These initiatives alone involve over £30m of one-off investment.

Details of the government's funding settlement for local authorities are expected next month.

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