The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

And what for rural in the manifesto?

Our Chief Executive Kerry Booth has been reviewing the manifesto from the main political parties over the last week to see what they are promising for rural communities. 

With almost 10 Million residents in living in rural England, it is vital that our new Government does not overlook the needs of this population.

The Rural Services Network set out its priorities for the next Government for our rural communities, with key actions we would like to see in 8 key policy areas primarily with a focus on fairly funding services in rural areas.

At the heart of our campaign, we believe that a one size fits all approach is not suitable for rural communities, and we want to see targeted action that meets the distinct challenges of delivering services in rural areas.

So what are the three parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats saying about Council Funding?

Conservatives:

At the next Spending Review, we will give local authorities a multi-year funding settlement to support social care and will take forward the reforms in our ‘People at the Heart of Care’ White Paper.

Look to recognise the unique circumstances of coastal areas in the allocation of grant funding to local authorities, alongside providing fairer funding for rural areas through the Rural Services Delivery Grant.

Liberal Democrats:

Tackle the funding crisis facing local authorities, including by providing multi-year settlements, boosting the supply of social housing,

Forging a long-term, cross-party agreement on social care.

Labour:

A Labour government will give councils multiyear funding settlements and end wasteful competitive bidding.


All similar commitments, with no party coming out to commit to a completion of the needs and resources review which was started several years ago.  With Urban Councils currently receiving 36% MORE per head than rural councils, it is time for the unfair distribution of funding to cease.  At times of austerity it is even more important that resources are fairly distributed. 

Interestingly the Conservative party has committed to providing fairer funding through the Rural Services Delivery Grant.  Sadly, this grant is not a panacea for the unfair funding that rural councils have experienced for years, and it isn’t allocated to all rural councils to help them respond to the additional costs of delivering services to sparsely populated areas.

The funding settlement for local government was changed back in 2013/14. The changes would have directed more funds towards rural councils however damping was introduced to ensure that there were not huge swings in funding for councils.  The funding would have flowed through gradually.  However, this process was frozen in place and has been ever since. This means that there are London councils receiving millions more than the formula says they should.  Rural Services Delivery Grant was introduced to help offset this process being frozen in place.

The RSN would like to see the following policy asks from the political parties.

First 18 months of new Government:

  • The delivery of fairer funding by applying in full (without damping) the effects of the changes made (but not fully implemented) to the Needs Assessment component of the funding formula in 2013 and increase the exemplified benefits to rural councils to reflect inflation in the intervening years.

  • Protect rural council taxpayers by fairly funding public services to ensure they are not asked to pay more to fund local services than their urban counterparts.

  • Ensure funding for the Social Care Reform proposals uses a formula which recognises the whole range of costs faced by rural councils and care providers. This includes financially addressing the current backlog in assessments etc.

First 3 years in office:

  • Address fairer funding through the completion of the Needs and Resources Review for Local Government Funding in the first 12 months of the next Spending Review period and fully implement the changes in 2026/27. Also maintain the Rural Services Delivery Grant.

  • Develop the mechanism for a successful Rural England Prosperity Fund and continue this dedicated fund.

  • Create public funding formulae which ensure the unique service needs, delivery constraints and the whole range of extra costs of delivering services in rural areas (and not just travel costs) are properly reflected.

You can find out more about the RSN asks of the political parties in our Winning the Rural Vote campaign: www.rsnonline.org.uk/winning-the-rural-vote.

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