Headlines: May 24th, 2010

The Rural Services Network says a letter to David Cameron is ‘the starting gun’ for a Fairer Funding Campaign. The letter warned the new Prime Minister that cuts in government spending would hit rural areas hardest and copies will now be sent to all relevant Secretaries of State.

The letter from RSN chief executive, Graham Biggs, set out what the organisation sees as some important principles in future reviews of the various formulae used across the public services to distribute central government financial support. In the letter, Mr. Biggs said he was under no illusions about the scale of the task facing the government in dealing with the deficit in public finances.

But he told Mr. Cameron: “We do, however, think there needs to be some realism on the question of what, in rural areas, constitutes a ‘fair share’,” and he added: “Central government funding formulae – across the public services – have ill-served rural areas.” The RSN says people living in the country pay at least as much, and often much more, in council tax than their urban counterparts but receive significantly fewer services. Rural residents also spend more of their net disposable income in accessing services, despite having lower incomes.

As part of the campaign for a fairer deal the Network is gathering information about how the system operates against the interests of rural people. Mr. Biggs said: “We would like to receive, both now and on an on-going basis, any evidence which member authorities posses which identifies the rural premium in relation to their services or which shows urban bias in the way their funding formulae are constructed or operate.”