Millions of rural residents receive almost 50% less funding for their public services compared to their neighbours in England’s largest cities, leading to calls for an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ of government funding and for a ‘new deal’ for county areas.
Collectively, England’s 37 county areas, received £3.2bn less than the English average (including London and towns and cities outside rural areas) this year, new statistics reveal.
This means that on average, county councils received £650 per person for public services in 2017/18, such as adult social care, buses, libraries, bin collections, pothole repairs, and children’s social services. In contrast, a city or metropolitan borough resident receives £825 for their services, whilst those in inner London enjoy £1,190 per person.
Leaders of England’s largest rural councils are gathering this week at the County Councils Network Annual Conference, where they will tell government ministers in attendance that they need a new deal for their rural areas and communities otherwise frontline public services will have to be cut.
This is because county authorities face a funding black hole of £2.54bn by 2021, due to austerity and these funding inequalities between rural and urban areas.
Just days before Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, Cllr Paul Carter, Chairman of CCN and Leader of Kent County Council, will tell delegates:
“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.
“For too long now, the 26 million people in England’s shire counties have not received a fair share of national resources.
“This means our Shire heartlands are receiving an eye-watering £3.2bn less than other parts of the country for services.
“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 This is outdated and chronically unfair.”
He will warn the gathering of predominately Conservative councillors, that there are growing concerns that the government’s review of local government finance will not resolve historical inequalities, and ‘fudge’ the issue, a situation he argues, will not be tolerated by county MPs.
With county leaders having little choice but to raise council tax to make sure the shortfall, they warn that their residents are unfairly subsidising the services enjoyed in other parts of the country.
The average county council tax bills is now £1,661; whilst councils such as Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have been in a position to freeze their bills, last year offering residents in multi-million pound homes rates as low as £669 and £1,059 for average Band D properties.
|Council type||Average funding per head|
|Non-CCN unitary council||£675|