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By Gary Smee Friday 25 January 2013 Updated: 28/01 15:00
A CALL for a fairer funding deal for rural district councils has been endorsed by Droitwich’s MP Peter Luff.
Mr Luff joined more than 45 other MPs at a meeting in Parliament to call on the Government to reconsider the 2013/14 Local Government Financial Settlement which will widen the funding gap between rural and urban councils.
Urban councils already receive 50 per cent more per head than rural areas, but Mr Luff said this was despite evidence that many services were more expensive to deliver in sparsely populated areas and despite a commitment from Eric Pickles in
December 2011 to reduce the inequality.
The group of MPs called on the Government to firstly amend the provisional settlement so there is a modest reduction in the gap between rural and urban councils in the coming year and secondly for the Secretary of State to set out a plan to close the
funding gap between rural and urban councils to no more than 40 per cent by 2020.
Mr Luff said: “It looks to me as if the problem is the New Homes Bonus. This is supposed to incentivise local communities to accept more house building and Wychavon has been held up by the Government as a role model for using the money as it was intended.
“But now the government seems to be saying that new Homes Bonus money counts as part of a council’s overall spending power and implying it should be used to fund core services.
“That’s why I’ve asked a series of parliamentary questions about the Government’s plans. If they’ve changed the role of the Bonus, they must be honest about it so councils can plan sensibly.”
Graham Stuart MP, chairman of the Rural Fair Share Campaign, said on average people in rural areas earned less, paid higher council tax and received substantially less support for services than those living in cities.
“We are not arguing for more government spending overall but for fair allocations within the spending envelope,” he added.
“When money is tight it is more important, rather than less important, for funding allocations to be fair.”
Mr Luff added he felt rural councils have been underfunded for too long and would continue to press for a fair deal in his constituency.
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