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RSG: 'RE-ELECTION SLUSH GRANT'

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Conservatives in local government have criticised the local government finance settlement as a government attempt t...
Conservatives in local government have criticised the local government finance settlement as a government attempt to woo its heartlands at the expense of taxpayers in Tory controlled authorities.

The settlement (see LGCnet) predominantly hits rural South East counties who have received only small increases compared to the much higher increases for some authorities in the North. It results in a significant transfer of funds away from the South to the North in one of the biggest redistribution of local government finance ever seen.

Leader of Conservatives in local government, Gordon Keymer, commented: 'Local authorities are already facing some large increases in expenditure for 2003/2004 caused by the the increase in local government and teacher's salaries, pensions, the 1% on the national insurance contributions announced in this year's Budget, as well as having to find whatever is required to settle the fire dispute.

'These costs are already in the system before any additional money is spent on improving public services. The manipulation of the new formula system towards Labour controlled heartlands will mean that council taxpayers in the South East could be facing council tax increases of up to 15%.

Nick Skellett, leader of Surrey CC said: 'I'm outraged for the people of the South East who now face substantial council tax rises as a result of today's announcement. In my own authority of Surrey, residents now face an increase of around 15% without any rise in level of services'.

Sandy Bruce Lockhart, leader of Kent CC commented: 'As a result of the government decision to move funds away from the South East, Kent will now face difficult budget decisions. While we will continue to focus further on our administration and overhead costs, it is now inevitable that our budget will include both cuts to services and a significant increase in council tax'.

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