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Counties held back by 'outdated and inequitable' finance system

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Some of the lowest levels of social mobility in England can be found in rural county areas, caused partly by the local government finance system, a report states.

The study, published by the county all-party-parliamentary group and County Councils Network, finds England’s metropolitan areas have received a disproportionate amount of central funding, which diminishes county residents’ opportunities.

Citing analysis of statistics on employment, skills, early years, and education, the study finds no evidence of a north-south divide in terms of social mobility. Instead, it uncovers a gap between city and rural areas.

To counter this divide, the APPG argues that counties must receive a “fairer share of funding” through a recognition of “hidden deprivation” in rural areas and the increased costs of delivering services for these areas.

According to the study, urban councils receive far more in funding per capita than their rural counterparts, with councils in London receiving £482 per head for public services, compared to only £182 per person in county areas. Other metropolitan boroughs and cities receive £351 per head.

County APPG chairman Peter Aldous (Con), said on the launch of the report that county areas have been historically “overlooked”, due to a perception that they are “affluent and wealthy”.

Mr Aldous said: “An outdated and inequitable method of funding local authorities has disproportionally channelled funding towards London and the major cities, holding back social mobility in county areas and embedding a cycle of low life chances for residents. This is unfair.”

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