Tuesday, 31 October 2017
The Rural Services Network  has welcomed a government pledge that no council involved in its business rates retention pilots  will be left worse off.
Local authorities were frustrated that London had secured a ‘no detriment’ guarantee while the same pledge was not offered to other councils.
But that decision has now been reversed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the same offer extended to councils outside London.
Responding to the news, RSN chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: “This is something we have called for and it is welcome news from the government.”
Mr Biggs said the move might make more rural councils willing to trial 100% business rates retention in future – knowing they would be no worse off.
He added: “It is important that the government designs a retention system suitable for all local authorities – including those representing sparsely populated areas – not just those in London.”
1) The Rural Services Network provides a voice for rural communities by representing rural services, networking between rural service organisations and establishing and broadcasting best practice in rural service provision.
It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group.
For details, visit www.rsnonline.org.uk.
2) Local authorities were invited to pilot 100% business rates retention in 2018 to 2019 and to pioneer new pooling and tier-split models. Proposals had to be received on or before Friday 27 October 2017 by the Department.
Successful pilots will be announced in December 2017 and launched in April 2018. The government's invitation is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/100-business-rates-retention-pilots-2018-to-2019-prospectus
Public Sector Funding
Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those?in urban areas and therefore pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.
Barriers to Access
Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.
Future of Rural Areas
Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.
Health and Wellbeing
Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term.
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