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Planned rural funding assessment raises alarm

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Funding for councils in rural areas is to be assessed in a move described as “potentially dangerous” by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy.

Consultancy LG Futures has been commissioned by two government departments to “establish whether rural authorities face additional and unavoidable costs in delivering services, compared to urban authorities”.

In a letter sent to all councils, the Department for Communities & Local Government and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said: “The data, evidence and conclusions from the research will form part of the evidence base for future decisions on local government funding.”

In-depth interviews will be conducted this summer with 25 councils, both urban and rural, that will be asked to provide costs in areas including environmental services, waste, concessionary travel and adult social care. Findings will be used to make estimates for other services before a final report is published in November.

Rob Whiteman, Cipfa’s chief executive, said it would be “potentially dangerous” if the report focused more closely on rural councils’ pressures than on those of urban councils. He expressed concern that the study was being “rushed” when the findings could have consequences for future settlements.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, said of finance settlements: “Certainly rural members feel aggrieved.”

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