Government to be tackled over funding gap between rural and urban areas.

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Local MP Neil Parish is leading the fight to secure a fairer funding deal for rural areas.

He has secured a backbench business debate in a bid to persuade the Government to reconsider the 2013/14 Local Government Financial Settlement.

The Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton believes the current settlement “threatens to entrench the injustice suffered by rural areas by further widening the gap between the funding given to rural and urban councils”.

“It’s time the countryside got a fairer deal,” he told the Midweek Herald. “Rural Local Authorities have always had to deal with under-funding compared with their city neighbours. Urban councils already receive twice as much than rural councils like East Devon and Mid Devon District Councils in my constituency. This trend must be reversed.

“I hope that this debate will send a clear signal to the Minister of the strength of feeling from all sides of the House that rural services need to be properly funded.”

Mr Parish led a group of cross-party MPs in presenting the case for the debate to the Backbench Business Committee on Tuesday.

The debate will take place Monday, February 11, and is being supported by The Rural Fair Share Campaign.

Urban councils receive 50 per cent more per head than rural areas - despite evidence that many services are more expensive to deliver in sparsely populated areas.

In spite of a commitment by Eric Pickles in December 2011 to reduce the inequality, the most recent provisional settlement instead cuts support for rural councils.

The Rural Fair Share Campaign is calling on the government to do two things:

To amend the provisional settlement so that there is a modest reduction in the gap between rural and urban councils in the coming year;

For the Secretary of State to set out a plan to close the funding gap between rural and urban councils to no more than 40% by 2020.

The chairman of the Rural Fair Share Campaign, Graham Stuart MP, said: “The Department for Communities and Local Government promised in the summer that they would reduce the Rural Penalty – which sees urban councils receive 50 per cent more per head in grants than those in rural areas – but the proposed Local Government Financial Settlement only narrows the gap by 0.2 per cent.

“It’s great that Neil Parish has taken this up, got a parliamentary debate and we hope to use it to change the Government’s mind.”

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