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Chancellor George Osborne admits councils in Devon & Cornwall get a raw deal on funding

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 16, 2013

By Graeme Demianyk

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Chancellor George Osborne has admitted rural councils struggle to get a fair share of funding.

And he acknowledged Whitehall funding formulas do little to help tackle the hidden poverty that blights parts of the countryside.

Westcountry MPs have spearheaded a campaign to reform long-standing mechanisms for funding local schools, councils and NHS services.

The Rural Fair Share campaign claims rural councils receive 50% less money per head than their urban counterparts due to the Government’s skewed funding formula.

Nick Harvey, MP for North Devon, said the Chancellor’s comments underlined how “there’s a clear need for reform”.

Appearing before the Treasury Select Committee of MPs, Mr Osborne said he accepted improvements were needed.

“One of the things these formulas have not been very good at tackling is pockets of rural deprivation,” he said.

“For example, in the national funding formula for schools, we are looking at these issues where you can have two schools with the same number of kids on free schools meals – which is not a bad indicator of deprivation – and yet because one is in a rural area and one is in an urban area the rural school gets much less.

“That’s something we’re looking at in the formula for schools – and of course there’s a broader debate to be had. But I think you’re still going to end up in a situation concentrating resources in areas of greatest deprivation.”

The South West is a major loser under the current schools cash formula.

Devon sits sixth from bottom in a national league table of 151 education authorities in terms of funding, with schools getting hundreds of pounds less per pupil than the national average and half as much as in parts of London.

Cornwall and Somerset are only marginally better off than Devon. The announcement on the new schools formula is expected within weeks.

Mr Osborne suggested other areas of public spending could follow, but repeated that the most deprived areas will continue to receive the most support.

“The truth is that our urban areas do get relatively more public spending – but they tend to also have much greater health and deprivation problems,” he said.

“As a constituency MP in Cheshire, I know there’s always a debate about the amount of money per head of population that we receive compared to neighbouring Manchester – and I think there is room for improvement in some of these formulas. But fundamentally, we make a decision as a country that we spend more money in the most deprived areas.”

The MPs want the gap closed when the Department for Communities and Local Government next week unveils the latest local authority spending settlement.

Rural MPs have long complained people living in the country have low pay and pay more council tax, but get less money from Whitehall to fund roads, schools and hospitals.

Liberal Democrat MP Mr Harvey, who has campaigned on fairer funding, said: “The Chancellor’s comments quite clearly acknowledge the unfairness of the current local government funding arrangements in rural areas.

“In expressing the need for changes to the formula, he is joining the lobby of MPs, local authorities, and some 20,000 people from across the country who have said they will no longer put up with this intolerable situation.

“Rural areas like my constituency of North Devon face far higher council tax bills than their urban counterparts.

“Local councils are doing everything they can with decreasing Government funding, but services are being stretched more thinly than ever. With urban councils receiving 50% more per person than in rural areas, there is a huge sense of injustice.

“The Chancellor has said what we’ve all been thinking and if the man in charge of our money thinks it’s unfair then there’s a clear need for reform. The funding settlement is due to be announced next week. On this issue rural areas have spoken – I hope the Government has heard our voice.”

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8 comments

  • break  |  December 16 2013, 7:51PM

    So he's saying,"yes,I am ripping you off",and it looks like he's also saying "don't expect it to change,but just to show you how kind I am,I'll give your schools a bit extra money".

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  • miniman1  |  December 16 2013, 5:53PM

    We send India £227 million per year. India has aircraft carriers ten times the size of ours, a full nuclear research industry, a space expedition, and we send them £227 million per YEAR -- unbelievable.

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  • miniman1  |  December 16 2013, 5:50PM

    We send India £227 million per year. India has aircraft carriers ten times the size of ours, a full nuclear research industry, a space expedition, and we send them £227 million per YEAR -- unbelievable.

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  • foxtor  |  December 16 2013, 4:43PM

    The south east gets far to much money from central government its about time we in the west country had more hello osbourne were alive down here the forgotten sw. foxtor

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  • wringer  |  December 16 2013, 4:11PM

    ...and todays prize for stating the glaringly obvious goes to Mr Osbourne. all that education and he doesn't know about rural poverty! Why does he think Europe awarded us our area status based on deprivation. for a bit of a laugh? no because they see the stats and figures. they are in the public domain and have been for years and years. so why now is Mr O talking about doing something then. could it be the European elections and the fear that UKIP will win? so much of the spending goes to the south east that unless you have lived there you don't realise what they have and how much they moan about it. people complain about buses not being on time. we don't even have a bus in our village or a shop or a pub or a post office. rubbish collections are a joke so are public toilets.

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  • Reeder  |  December 16 2013, 12:44PM

    Isn't this a surprise! If the so called puppet government know about this why don't they act. Instead of building a new train line from London to the North invest in the Westcountry. Upgrade the railway line from Exeter to Penzance, upgrade the A38 to Motorway standard and do something about the Airport. Whilst you're at it, think about the water rates and the energy prices. It's true what people say, England stops at Bristol.

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  • BrixhamDes  |  December 16 2013, 11:53AM

    Stop telling we are the most unfairly treated people in the Country regarding Council Funding, Water Rates, etc. etc.. AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I hope everyone remembers this when the next Election comes up. We voted you in and you done a lot of talking about but done nothing else.

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  • Bonqerz  |  December 16 2013, 10:24AM

    Isn't he the one person who could actually doing something about it? Whilst you are at it - how about some motorways, railways and airport spending for the region?

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