The fair funding review will take “full account” of the cost pressures facing sparsely populated councils, according to a Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government minister.
Responding to a question about the funding of rural counties in the House of Lords, Lord Bourne said the funding factors facing rural counties would be given attention.
Lord Bourne said: “Sparsity and population density are very much centre stage in the fair funding review and will be taken full account of.”
The minister appeared to reflect the language used by housing and communities minister James Brokenshire, who told LGC that he heard the message coming from the County Councils Network “very clearly”.
The CCN published a new report last month, recommending a more equitable funding stream for the country’s rural areas, many of which experience some of the country’s lowest levels of social mobility.
The report found that rural county councils receive only £182 per head for public services, compared with £482 per person for London councils and £351 per person for other urban areas.
County APPG chair Peter Aldous (Con) said: “An outdated and inequitable method of funding local authorities has disproportionately channelled funding towards London and the major cities, holding back social mobility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.”
However, the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities called the CCN analysis “misleading”, particularly due to its lack of focus on deprivation. In a column for LGC Sigoma chair Sir Stephen Houghton (Lab) said there was “no independent evidence to underpin” the argument there are greater costs to councils in rural areas compared to those in urban areas.
“We are all entitled to argue for our fair share. But if it is to succeed, the fair funding review must rise above the selective soundbites and loudest lobbyists to consider all the evidence, and nothing else,” said Sir Stephen.