Unfair rural funding condemned by Devon finance chief

Council chamberCouncil chamber

Posted on: 19 February 2016

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 the Government had recognised the disparity between rural and urban funding and granted Devon an extra £8.4 million – the fourth highest in the country.

But overall Devon’s residents were still suffering from historic under-funding.

Cllr John Clatworthy

Cllr John Clatworthy

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

“On the contrary, we need the right level of financial support.

“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 £130 per person less Government funding than urban areas.

Devon’s schools got £287 less per pupil than the national average. If Devon received the average it would mean an extra £25 million for the county’s schools, he said.

In Public Health, Devon got £38 per person compared with an national average of £69 whilst the City of London received £200 per person. If Devon received the average it would mean an additional £22.4 million.

“When it comes to transport infrastructure, for every £100 spent in the South East we receive £7.50 in the South West,” said Mr Clatworthy.

“Because we are receiving less than the average funding, many authorities must be receiving well above the average.

“That cannot be right or equitable and needs to be addressed because the cuts are felt harder on authorities with less than average funding.”

Mr Clatworthy said that the Government’s austerity agenda meant that between 2010 and 2019, almost £250 million would have been removed from Devon’s budget.

But, for 2016/17, the county council would still be spending £443.5 million on services. After allowing for inflation and other spending pressures, that represented savings of £34.3 million on the current year.

In spite of this, there would be an increase of £11.3 million in the budget for children and £5 million in the budget for adult care.

Mr Clatworthy said the council had decided to accept the Government’s offer of a two per cent increase in council tax to help fund adult social care.

The increase in the living wage would cost Devon over £7 million and the two per cent rise would bring in £6.5 million.

“With reduced Government support, we need to have sufficient funds to deliver all our services so, reluctantly, we are having to add 1.99 per cent to the two per cent making a 3.99 per cent increase this year.

“This additional funding will give certainty of income which is essential to protect services,” he said.

“This represents an increase of £46.35 on a Band D property making it £1,207.62 – an increase of 90p a week.”

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