North Devon MP tell government: rural funding situation ‘cannot go on’
North Devon MP Nick Harvey has expressed his sincere disappointment at this year’s level of Government funding for rural councils.
In a passionate speech to the Commons, Nick slammed the Government’s inaction on the rural funding ‘penalty’, which sees rural areas receive up to 50% less in funding per head than urban areas.
The Commons debated and voted on the Local Government Finance Settlement 2014/15, which sets out Government grant allocations for councils across England. Other Lib Dem MPs in Devon and Cornwall – Adrian Sanders (Torbay), Andrew George (St Ives) and Stephen Gilbert (St Austell) – joined Nick in voting against it.
Nick said: “As I put it to Ministers, why should some of the poorest people in the country, on the lowest wages, pay on average £86 higher in council tax than urban-dwellers, yet receive far less Government funding and watch local services erode around them?
“North Devon Council’s Government grant has been halved since 2010 and their total budget cut by a third. Devon County Council is having to embark on a huge programme of cuts to day centres and care homes, and people are of course up in arms about it. But this is an impossible situation for councils – who on average receive £145 less than their urban counterparts: a funding gap as wide as 50%.
“The Government have acknowledged there is a problem, and have found £11.5m to redress it, which equates to just over a pound per head. This simply isn’t enough. At this rate it will take us 145 years to right the gap in terms of the Government grant – how can this situation be justified?
“Last night, for these very reasons, a number of my rural Lib Dem colleagues and I voted against the Government’s local government finance plan for the coming year. Despite tireless campaigning and pressure from up and down the country – including the 1,700 North Devon residents who signed a petition last year – the Government has yet again chosen to ignore the rural voice and failed to bring fairness to the funding formula.”
(from a press release)