RSN demands fairer funding for rural areas

The Rural Services Network is calling on the government to ensure that rural communities receive fairer funding for vital public services.

It comes as the government prepares to announce its local government settlement for 2018-19 – its annual determination of funding for local authorities in England.

Central government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas, giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the higher cost of providing services in sparsely populated rural areas.

    See also: Rural places among worst for social mobility

Urban areas received some 45% (£116) per head in Government Funded Spending Power more than their rural counterparts in 2017-18, says the Rural Services Network.

The network has actively campaigned over very many years in raising the issue of unfair funding for rural communities and the local authorities they serve.

The disparity in funding is set to increase to 55% in 2019-20 taking figures from last year's local government finance settlement for 2017-18.

Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services, says the Rural Services Network.

  Pay more, receive less

Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Rural residents pay more, receive fewer services and, on average, earn less than those in urban areas and that is inequitable.

“We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.”

Cutbacks in government funding over recent years have had a bigger impact in rural areas than in other areas as their services start from a thinner base, says the Rural Services Network.

Mr Biggs said: “In times of reducing public expenditure it is more, rather than less, important to distribute available resources between different areas fairly.”

    Public services

He added: “Rural communities need a fair deal – not only to maintain public services but to maintain their social and economic viability too.”

Rural areas are among the worst performing when it comes to social mobility, according to the latest “state of the nation” report by the Social Mobility Commission.

Only 1 in 10 predominantly rural local authority areas are in the top 65 “hotspots” with the highest social mobility – compared with one in four predominantly urban local authority areas, it says.

Like the Rural Services Network, the commission has also called on the government to increase spending on parts of the country that most need it.


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