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Network warns against Budget impact

RURAL communities must not be unfairly disadvantaged by the Budget, the Rural Services Network has warned.

The warning of further pressure on the delivery of local public services comes amid an addition £1.5bn in public spending cuts which now stand at £11.5bn.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, said: "It remains vitally important that rural areas get a fair share of the available national resources which they do not under present formulae."

The network is continuing to campaign for a fairer share of the government's funding formulae, said Mr Biggs.

The Local Government Association has also describe the that the prospect of new cuts to funding for local services in 2014/15 and beyond as extremely worrying.

Reducing the money available for local services would be a false economy which diminished those services, led to higher costs in other parts of the public sector and limited the role councils could play in promoting growth, it said.

"Councils are already dealing with a 33% cut in funding from central government," said LGA chairman Merrick Cockell.

"This has led to reductions in local services. Any new cuts next year and beyond will have a significant negative impact."

Sir Merrick said the government needed to reconsider its approach ahead of the 2015/16 spending round.

"The only way of maintaining public services in the face of the proposed long-term cuts is by undertaking a radical transformation of the way they are provided and paid for," he said.

"This has to be based on the idea of allowing local areas to design services around the needs of people and communities."

The Budget provided some much-needed cheer for rural small businesses and motorists.

A decision to give every UK company an allowance of £2,000 against its Employer's National Insurance (NI) bill from April 2014 will particularly help smaller firms, said the Country Land and Business Association.

CLA deputy president Henry Robinson said the move could prove a "big boost" to the rural economy.

"Clearly, it will help smaller companies much more than big corporations."

The CLA also welcomed the government's Help to Buy package which is set to boost much-needed housing supply.

Mr Robinson said: "This will help alleviate the housing shortage and allowed stalled projects to move forward."

On planning, Mr Robinson said it was good the chancellor had signalled that the government will launch a consultation on change of use of "certain agricultural buildings" to homes.

"This potentially is great news for rural communities, providing much-needed homes for people wanting to live and work in the countryside as well as turning disused farm buildings into something useful," he added.

Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance welcomed the cancellation of a rise in fuel duty scheduled for September.

The government had recognised that rural motorists, who on average pay 25% more for their commute to work, were hardest hit when fuel prices are increased, it said.

"Cars are essential, not a luxury in the countryside, which is why we urge the Chancellor to extend the rural fuel rebate scheme  to remote rural areas to ease the heavy burden of fuel on rural families," said the alliance.


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