Councils have warned David Cameron that plans for local government funding could ‘isolate’ many rural communities and pressure countryside town halls to cut deeper.
A letter from the Rural Services Network signed by 125 local authorities, many of which are Conservative controlled, has told the prime minister that proposed funding offered to town halls ‘cannot possibly’ cover the cost of developing problems.
Concerns were raised about both the ‘long term viability of many rural communities’ and a worsening ‘penalty’ handed to countryside areas as a result of a funding shortfall.
The letter, seen by the Telegraph, states: ‘When services are reduced or centralised in rural areas, people have to travel considerable distances to receive assistance and often the travelling involved and lack of public transport, means those services cannot actually be taken up’.
A final funding settlement for local authorities for the next financial year is expected to be announced this week, following a consultation that ended last month. Yet calculations from the Rural Services Network suggest the deal would see urban town halls receiving £153 more per resident than those in the countryside.
Local government minster Kris Hopkins has pledged to address ‘the gap in urban-rural spending power’, with a sparsity grant offered to countryside town halls rising by £4m.
Yet the letter from the Rural Services Network claims: ‘Spread over rural areas as a whole this cannot possibly deal with the problems which are set to expand every year.’