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Call for fairer funding for rural councils

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People living in rural areas receive 50% less in government grants and pay on average £100 more in council tax than those in urban areas, according a report by the Rural Services Network .

The RSN, a coalition of rural councils and rural interest groups, warned that rural council tax payers were being charged more but received less in the way of public services. It said the current system for allocating local government funds in rural areas was “woefully inadequate”.

The research was carried out for RSN by independent finance consultants Local Government Futures. It found that council tax in predominantly rural authorities was on average 21% higher than in predominantly urban authorities,or around £572 compared to £473.

Total revenue spending power, from council tax, revenue grants and other income, was also calculated to be significantly lower for rural authorities, at £324 per head of population compared to £487 in urban areas, or around 50% less.

But the report also warned of a high level of unmet needs in rural communities, many of which relating to the high cost of travel. As a result take up of health, care and education services was often found to be lower than in cities.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart, chair of the Rural Services All Party Parliamentary Group, said the current local government funding formula was “simply unfair”.

He added: “Rural communities are at the losing end of an inequitable system that sees residents pay more, yet receive less.

“The government must reconsider how they distribute financial resources to local authorities by reforming what can only be described as an unbalanced funding formula.”

Rural Services Network chairman, Roger Begy (Con) said: “When combined with the additional  costs of providing services in rural areas this puts residents in rural communities at a significant disadvantage when compared to people that live in urban areas.

“We believe that the Local Government Resources Review presents a valuable opportunity for the government to redress this imbalance and demonstrate its commitment to rural councils and their residents.  This would be in line with the Conservative Party’s “Rural Action Plan” published ahead of the last General Election.”

The Department for Communities & Local Govenrment has been contacted for comment.

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