Monday, 13 November 2017 20:57

County councils call for fairer funding

Written by  Ruralcity Media
County councils call for fairer funding

COUNTY councils have called for a new deal to end the "postcode lottery" of government funding for rural areas.

New statistics suggest England’s 37 county areas collectively received £3.2bn less than the English average this year – including London and towns and cities outside rural areas.

On average, county councils received £650 per person for public services in 2017/18, such as adult social care, buses, libraries, bin collections, pothole repairs, and children’s social services.

City or metropolitan borough residents received £825 for their services, while those in inner London enjoyed £1,190 per person.

Council leaders say they need a new deal is vital for rural areas – otherwise frontline public services will be cut.

County Council Network chairman Paul Carter said: "Our services are threatened and under pressure like never before.

"Unless these inequalities are addressed, many of the highly valued services to our public will diminish or disappear."

Echoing calls by the Rural Services Network, councillor Carter said England’s shire counties had not received a fair share of national resources.

The Rural Services Network has calculated that urban areas in 17/18 still receive some 45% (£116) per head in Government Funded Spending Power more than their rural counterparts

The disparity in funding is set to increase to 55% in 2019/20 taking figures from the multiyear final local government finance settlement, 2017 to 2018.

Using figures from the final local government settlement, 2017 to 2018, rural residents would pay in 2017/18 17% (£86.99) per head more in council tax than their urban counterparts due to receiving less government grant.

The multiyear settlement for 2017/18 showed this gap remaining unchanged until at least 2019/20.

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

Councillor Carter said: "This impacts on the daily lives on our residents, all whilst they unfairly subsidise services enjoyed in other parts of the country through higher council tax bills.

"This is outdated and chronically unfair."

Historical inequalities had led to a number of geographical quirks where residents were playing a postcode lottery in funding for their local services, said councillor Carter.

Rural Leicestershire received £428 per person to fund public services, but Leicester – a unitary city council – received £1,107 per person, some 61% more.

County leaders faced little choice but to raise council tax to make sure the shortfall, said councillor Carter.

In effect, their residents were unfairly subsidising the services enjoyed in other parts of the country.

The average county council tax bills is now £1,661, says the network.

But councils such as Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have been in a position to freeze their bills.

Lst year, they offered residents in multi-million pound homes rates as low as £669 and £1,059 for average Band D properties.

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