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WMN Opinion. Devon and Cornwall deserve fairer deal from Government

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 16, 2013

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When Prime Minister David Cameron and his old school mate and now Chancellor George Osborne unveiled their ambitious plans to tackle Britain’s debt crisis, they were insistent on one thing.

“We are all in this together,” they chimed.

It was about as catchy as political catchphrases come, and has ever since been used as a stick to beat them with. Their Eton education, their smart friends, their cabinet of ‘millionaires’ have all pointed to a situation where austerity might be affecting some more adversely than others.

But, aside from the politics of class and money, there has been a sneaking suspicion that people living in rural Britain were not getting as fairer deal as they might under the Coalition government.

The Prime Minister’s insistence that he understands the concerns and aspirations of people who live in the country have begun to sound increasingly hollow - as has Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s insistence that he and his boys were about as “rural” as you can get.

Rising fuel prices, a shortage of housing, infrastructure frailties are all issues that have not helped.

But even more damaging, has been the knowledge that Government funding formulas do favour places with higher density population.

People living in rural Britain have been short-changed.

Today we report that finally Chancellor George Osborne has admitted this.

He has acknowledged that rural councils struggle to get a fair share of funding and that Whitehall formulas do little to help tackle hidden poverty.

A good example of the way the South West is affected in 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.

It is, quite simply, not fair. But the good news is that the problem has been recognised and the Chancellor has promised change.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will this week unveil its latest local authority spending settlement.

The South West, along with all of rural Britain, will be hoping for a fairer deal.

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