Councils fight for fairer funding

COUNCIL leaders travelled to parliament to highlight the need for fairer rural funding.

Lincolnshire county council leader Martin Hill and other local authority leaders from the county met local government minister Marcus Jones on Wednesday (18 October).

They were joined by Lincolnshire MPs Caroline Johnson, Matt Warman, John Hayes, Nick Boles and Victoria Atkins.

The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the difficulties councils are having in funding services because of increasing costs and demand, combined with declining government funding.

Mr Hill said: “I’m pleased to report that the meeting was positive and [communities secretary] Sajid Javid was complimentary about how well the council is running services in Lincolnshire, especially considering our low funding rates.

"He does however accept that the formula is unfair to rural areas, and is personally committed to reforming this."

Mr Hill said funding rates were already set for the next two years and he was comfortable that the savings needed could be found during this time to meet the budget shortfall.

Change needed

But he added: "With increasing costs and demand for services, we were clear with ministers in our meeting that something has to change.

"We are expecting further government announcements about this before the end of the year, following the chancellor’s budget."

Mr Hill said Lincolnshire region would benefit from £116million of extra funding for services, every year if councils had received the average funding for council areas in England.

"This is a huge amount and would make an enormous difference to Lincolnshire residents and the services they value."

It was pleasing that the government had recognised funding was a real issue that needed to be addressed but time was running out, said Mr Hill.

Budget shortfalls were increasing every year and the cost of providing rural services was significantly more expensive than for urban councils.

The meeting was arranged by Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham.

Rural county

Dr Johnson said: "We live in a large rural county and appropriate funding is necessary to ensure that our council can provide services like adult social care and road maintenance over a wide area.

"This is a matter of fairness and I will continue doing whatever I can as a Lincolnshire MP to push for us to get the funding we deserve."

Mr Warman, Mr Hayes, Mr Boles and Ms Atkins are all parliamentary patrons of the Rural Fair Share campaign, a cross-party group of MPs calling for a fair share of available national resources to local government.

The secretariat for the Rural Fair Share campaign is provided by the Rural Services Network.

The Rural Fair Share Campaign supports an impartial, objective, needs-based approach to local government funding and the funding by central government of other essential public service.

The current campaign in respect of local government funding aims to reduce the rural penalty.

This penalty sees urban councils receive approximately 45% more funding by way of Government Grant per head than rural councils.


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