Unfair rural funding condemned by Devon finance chief

Council chamber

Posted on: 16 February 2017

The unfair funding of rural counties over urban areas has been condemned by the deputy leader of Devon County Council.

John Clatworthy, who is also the Cabinet member for finance, said Devon’s budget would have been very different if the county was funded at the national average.

He said Devon’s residents were suffering from historic under-funding.

Cllr John Clatworthy

“I did not come into local government to see fewer resources to support our communities,” he said.

“Devon does not receive average funding and there is a clear disparity between urban and rural funding.”

Mr Clatworthy said, on average, rural areas received £131 per person less Government funding than urban areas.

The Rural Services Network had calculated that the average funding per person for urban areas was £419 compared with £288 in rural areas.

Devon’s schools got £290 less per pupil than the national average. If Devon received the average it would mean an extra £24 million for the county’s schools, he said.

In Public Health, Devon got £36 per person compared with a national average of £59 whilst the City of London received £187 per person. Devon ranked 143rd out of 152 local authorities. If Devon received the average it would worth an additional £18 million to the county, he said.

“As to transport infrastructure, the South West is the second lowest funded in the country and dropping. For every £100 spent in the South East, the South West region receives £7.50,” said Mr Clatworthy.

“Being the member for Dawlish, we need to see the necessary funds allocated to protect and enhance the railway infrastructure for this region.“

Mr Clatworthy said that the Government’s austerity agenda meant that, between 2009 and 2018, around £267 million would have been removed from Devon’s budget.

But, for 2017/18, the county council would still be spending £459.58 million on services.

And there would be an increase of £18.7 million in the budget for adult care and health to reflect increased demand and cost pressures and £2.3 million extra for children’s services following an £11.3 million increase in the current year.

Mr Clatworthy said the council had decided to accept the Government’s offer of an increase of up to three per cent in council tax to help fund adult social care and health on top of the 1.99 per cent for general services.

“With reduced Government support and the increased demand and cost pressures on adult care and health, it is essential to take advantage of this,” he said.

“We need the certainty of income to protect services as caring for the elderly and disabled people, together with children, are our highest priorities.

“With this in mind, we are reluctantly promoting an increase this year of 4.99 per cent which will provide £17 million additional funding.

“This means we can champion looking after the elderly, the vulnerable and children.

“This represents an increase of £60.30 on a Band D property making it £1,267.92 – an increase of £1.16 a week.

“Hopefully, everybody is at last waking up to the fact that increased life expectancy is creating a whole set of new problems to deal with and the Government needs to make more resources available.

“It’s no good the Government reducing support on one hand and expecting local government to raise the additional funds locally on the other.”

Mr Clatworthy said he fully backed the calls for a complete review of social care by central Government to ensure a more appropriate and sustainable means of funding in future years.

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