North Devon MP Nick Harvey and Cllr Brian Greenslade have responded to cuts in Government funding for North Devon District Council, published in the 2015-16 Local Government Finance Settlement.
Figures released today by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that in the 2015-16 financial year NDDC faces a 14% cut in its share of grant from central government, from £5.7 million in 2014-15 to £4.9 million in 2015-16.
Devon County Council has also seen a reduction of just under 14% to its share. The provisional settlement will be subject to a Parliamentary vote in early 2015 before funding levels are confirmed.
Nick Harvey is co-chair of the cross-party Parliamentary Rural Fair Share Campaign and has been critical of the Government’s inaction on the rural funding ‘penalty’, which has seen rural areas receive up to 50% less in funding per head than urban areas. He voted against the 2014-15 settlement in Parliament this February.
The MP said: “This is another devastating year of cuts to local government budgets and North Devon District Council are yet again taking a huge hit.
“Time and time again I have put it to Local Government Ministers: North Devon residents will simply not put up with seeing public services erode around them while paying far higher council taxes than urban-dwellers.
“Despite cross-party pressure to redress the imbalance and bias towards urban areas in the current funding formula – which sees rural councils receive on average £145 less per head than their urban counterparts – nothing has been done. The Department for Communities and Local Government have sat on their hands for yet another year and instead point to an £4million increase in the Rural Services Delivery Grant to £15.5million. Shared between all rural local authorities, this is nothing more than a drop in the ocean.
“The disproportionate pain inflicted on rural councils is simply unacceptable. I will be making the voice of North Devon heard on this issue when it comes to Parliament in February.”
Commenting further, North Devon District Council Leader Brian Greenslade said: “It is no comfort that the cut in grant is very much in line with what we expected but at least here at NDC we have prepared for this eventuality, so it will not trigger a panic attack. In preparing for this loss of grant we have not only cut spending in an orderly manner, but we have also introduced efficiencies, especially in our waste and recycling area, to help compensate for loss of grant.
“As long as the final settlement figure is not materially different to the provisional figure we should be able to set a balanced budget for 2015/16; freeze the NDDC share of council tax for the fifth year running and also freeze most fees and charges, including hourly car parking charges for the fourth year running.
“However, what this provisional settlement underlines is that Government is totally out of touch with the needs of rural areas like North Devon.”
(from a press release)