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MIDDLE ENGLAND FIGHTS BACK

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A new group of authorities representing 'Middle England' was today launched at the start of the Local Government As...
A new group of authorities representing 'Middle England' was today launched at the start of the Local Government Association conference.

Huge swathes of shire England, the key political battleground where Labour made huge gains in the last election, are being penalised by an unfair grant distribution system which disproportionately benefits metropolitan areas. An analysis of the marginal constituencies gives an indication of the political importance of this issue for the next general election.

The group is gearing up to make strong case to government demonstrating how the present funding regime penalises areas which are non-urban yet are not very sparsely populated.

The meeting is organised by the Town and Country Finance Issues Group (TACFIG) which is registered as a special interest group by the Local Government Association.

Authorities attending include: South Staffs, Stafford, Lichfield, Ashford, Aylesbury, East Cambridgeshire, West Wiltshire, Lincoln, Wycombe, Mid Sussex, and Waverley.

TACFIG is publishing the results of research by Rita Hale Associates which demonstrates that the present system does not reflect the real costs of services in these areas and fails to allow for significant pockets of rural deprivation. They will be showing how the system creates perverse incentives which work against the government's own objectives, including achieving best value across all services and reducing traffic congestion.

Anna Thomson, former leader of Waverley and current chair of TACFIG said:

'I am convinced from the financial work we have undertaken that we have a strong case to put to government highlighting the unfairness in the arcane way in which our spending needs are calculated. The present standard spending assessment system is in urgent need of reform and does not reflect deprivation in Middle England. We need as many as possible to join with us to make sure the voice of Middle England is heard'.

Don Mole, leader of Staffordshire Moorlands said:

'Semi rural areas, like ours, on the fringe of major towns, have been losing out for years. Staffordshire Moorlands has significant social and economic needs and we will be working to make a strong case to Government to recognise them in the financial settlement.'

- an appendix is available on request from LGCnet. Tel 0171 833 7324/5

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