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'Perfection will have to be sacrificed in favour of the practical on fair funding'

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When I spoke at the County Councils Network (CCN) conference in November last year, one of my key messages was to reach out to metropolitan boroughs on the fair funding review.

I believe it is accepted by all in local government, that the current funding formula is long out of date, opaque, unduly complex and profoundly unfair.

I am encouraged by the government’s fair funding review, currently out for consultation as it indicates an approach that is as simple as possible, transparent, needs-led, evidence based and potentially fair.

CCN has no intention of trying to skew the dice in favour of counties and at the expense of others.

When Rishi Sunak spoke at the CCN executive last month, he clearly outlined the need for a data driven approach, stating that the new formula should be both evidence-based and future proofed, one that is capable of standing the test of time.

After 18 months of working, and listening to, the sector through the technical working groups, I am confident that the direction of travel is inherently based on the principle of evidence and fairness.

However, compromise and pragmatism on all sides of the local government sector, will be necessary. It is essential the new funding methodology is transparent and as simple as possible. Perfection will have to be sacrificed in the interest of what is good, sensible and practical.

To this end, counties are willing to compromise and explore whether there should be a role for an evidence-based deprivation weighting. But, if deprivation was to be reconsidered, it must be evidence-based to warrant its inclusion and it’s weighting should reflect that evidence base.

CCN member authorities feel the fair funding review is clearly heading in a practical and positive direction.

We must now focus on the big cost drivers – children’s services and adult social care and in particularl on adult learning disability within social care, which in many shire authorities is becoming the largest component part of our budget.

We await with interest more detail on the formula for people-based services which account for 75% of our budgets - and rising!

 Paul Carter (Con), chairman of the County Councils Network, leader Kent CC

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