MPs to debate 'under-funding' of rural areas
A Westcountry MP has secured a Commons debate calling for a rethink of the latest round of cuts imposed on councils, claiming reductions hit rural areas harder.
Anti-cuts protesters have criticised the Government for the latest grant settlements to local authorities, which has seen many working-age benefit claimants forced to pay council tax.
Conservative Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, in Devon, has secured a backbench business debate calling on the Coalition to reconsider the 2013/14 Local Government Financial Settlement.
The debate today is supported by The Rural Fair Share Campaign, amid fears the reductions in local authority income will "entrench the injustice" suffered by rural areas and further widening the gap between countryside and urban councils.
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Mr Parish said: "Rural local authorities have always had to deal with under-funding compared with their city neighbours and it's time the countryside got a fairer deal.
"Urban councils already receive twice as much than rural councils like East Devon and Mid Devon District Councils in my constituency – this trend must be reversed.
"I hope that this debate will send a clear signal to the Minister of the strength of feeling from all sides of the House that rural services need to be properly funded."
Urban councils already receive 50% more grant per head than rural areas, Mr Parish claims, despite evidence that many services are more expensive to deliver in sparsely populated areas.
The Rural Fair Share Campaign chairman Graham Stuart MP, also a Tory, is calling for a modest gap between town and city and wants Mr Pickles to close the funding gap to no more than 40% by 2020, adding: "We hope to use the debate to change the Government's mind."