Rural public services funding ‘outdated and chronically unfair’

20 Nov 17

Funding for public services in rural communities is “outdated and chronically unfair” when compared to towns and cities, the County Councils Network has stated.

The body, which represents county councils, has demanded the government address the ‘postcode lottery’ of government funding.

It says there are large disparities between resources allocated to rural public services and their urban counterparts.

Paul Carter, chair of the CCN, will tell the network’s annual conference today that 26 million countryside residents receive almost 50% less funding for their public services compared to their neighbours in England’s largest cities.

“Our services are threatened and under pressure like never before. 

“Unless these inequalities are addressed, many of the highly valued services to our public will diminish or disappear,” he warned.

Carter highlighted that this year, collectively, England’s 37 county areas received £3.2bn less than the English average, including London and towns and cities outside rural areas.

He added: “This impacts on the daily lives on our residents, all whilst they unfairly subsidise services enjoyed in other parts of the country through higher council tax bills.

“This is outdated and chronically unfair.”

The inequality in the current system means that, on average, county councils received £650 per person for public services in 2017-18 however a city or metropolitan borough resident receives £825 for their services, whilst those in inner London enjoy £1,190 per person, the CCN said. 

This gulf in funding received by different communities comes at a time when county authorities face a funding black hole of £2.54bn by 2021, caused by austerity and these funding inequalities between rural and urban areas, according to the CCN.

Carter is also expected to warn that the government’s review of local government finance will not resolve historical inequalities, and is likely to “fudge” the issue.

The CCN noted that these historical quirks mean a rural taxpayer in Leicestershire gets £428 per person for their public services, but those living, in some cases, less than a mile away in Leicester, a unitary city council, get £1,107 per person for their services – 61% more.

County leaders say they have little choice but to raise council tax to make sure the shortfall, meaning that their residents are unfairly subsidising the services enjoyed in other parts of the country.

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