Government faces 'major revolt' over rural funding

Up to 50 Tory MPs are preparing to vote against the government's proposed funding settlement for rural local authorities.

Prime Minister David Cameron faces a 'major backbench Tory rebellion'' over planned cuts to town hall budgets, reports The Independent.

The newspaper names senior backbencher Graham Stuart as the "shop steward" leading the "rural resistance" to the cuts.

    See also: Listen to MPs on rural funding, government told

It says up to 50 MPs are understood to have signed a letter demanding changes to the government's proposed settlement with local government.

The letter calling for rural communities to be given more money has been sent to communities secretary Greg Clarke ahead of a final vote in the House of Commons.

The Independent says a rebellion could derail the government's plans if enough Tories line up with Labour MPs against the proposals.

Mr Stuart is chairman of the cross-party Rural Fair Share group of MPs, which is calling for a fairer deal for rural communities.

The campaign has been working closely on the issue with the Rural Services Network, which represents more than 120 rural local authorities.

Rural Services Network chair Cecilia Motley said: "We believe the current proposals will destroy many services in rural areas.

She added: "We totally support the 50 rural MPs and call on the government to immediately revise their proposals."

The Rural Fair Share group and the Rural Services Network are both calling on the government to redistribute an additional £130m to rural councils.

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.

Campaigners say it is unfair that urban residents receive 45% more in central government grant than their rural counterparts – despite paying £81 less in council tax per head of population.

But government ministers have proposed a much lower settlement.

Before Christmas, the government said it would increase the amount of the Rural Services Delivery grant from £15.5m to £65m in 2019-2020.

But MPs have warned that this fails to recognise the extent of the rural-urban funding gap.

In a separate move, local council leaders have also written to the government calling on it to revise its funding proposals.

More than a dozen local authority bosses have voiced "grave concerns" that rural areas will lose out under the funding deal, according to the Evening Chronicle newspaper.

They include the leaders of Northumberland County Council, Cumbria County Council and Oxfordshire County Council, which covers the Prime Minister's constituency of Witney.


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