Countryside hit hardest as government cuts council funding

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Rural communities will bear the brunt of government cuts that will force local councils to slash their services.

The warning follows the publication of the government’s finance settlement, which details the amount of central funding given to local authorities.

Rural councils will face a bigger reduction in central grant and spending power than urban councils, according to an initial analysis by the Rural Services Network.

Information released by the government is incomplete with much detailed information to follow. But an initial assessment paints a bleak picture for the countryside.

It certainly does not represent a fair deal for both urban and rural communities as suggested by Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles yesterday.

Predominantly rural local authorities will see an average 3.81% reduction in formula funding compared to a 2.04% reduction for urban authorities.

Significantly rural authorities will see an even bigger cut, averaging 5.21%.

Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs said: “This is a body blow for rural councils already struggling to provide services to countryside communities.”

Mr Biggs added: “Even before these reductions, urban areas received about half as much more funding per head than rural areas. This settlement further widens the gap.

“Rural residents already pay more council tax for fewer services because of historic government under-funding, so the settlement is very bad news for the countryside.”

On average, district councils will fare worst, with a 6.78% reduction in formula funding.

County councils will see a 4.70% reduction, followed by unitary authorities (-2.9%), metropolitan authorities (-1.81%) and London (-1.52%).

When it comes to spending power, predominantly rural local authorities will see a 1.72% reduction compared to a 1.50% reduction in spending power for urban authorities.

Significantly rural authorities will fare even worse, suffering a 2.10% reduction in spending power.