Fresh call for fairer council funding

PUBLISHED: 12:33 14 July 2015 | UPDATED: 12:33 14 July 2015

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A CALL for cash-strapped Somerset councils to receive fairer funding from the Government is being reiterated this week.

The Government’s formula for allocating money to councils favours urban areas because it does not take into account the cost of providing services in sparsely-populated rural areas.

The funding gap has become even more of a problem since funding to all councils has fallen.

Last year, the Mercury team up with MP John Penrose to run a Fairer Funding campaign to lobby the Government to provide a better deal for North Somerset.

People here received only £342 per person from central Government in 2013, while London councils received £811.

In the latest developments, Somerset County Council has learned it will receive only £69million for 2015-16, compared to £103million in 2013-14.

The council’s revenue support grant from Westminster has fallen by more than £20million, and this is expected to become £40million by 2020.

Council leader John Osman is now reiterating calls for a rethink.

Cllr Osman said: “We still have to digest the detail, but that fact that the speed of austerity has not been increased at least means the budget, at first look, is not as hard on us as many people were predicting.

“Investment in infrastructure and apprenticeships and emerging detail on devolution are welcomed, but on a fundamental level the funding mechanism used ignores the challenges faced by rural authorities like Somerset.

“We have an ageing population which is causing huge demand on our services, yet we receive less funding than councils in urban areas and we are ranked 114th out of 152 authorities across the country.

“We are one of the poorest funded and that is not acceptable and it is not fair.

“That’s why I’m lobbying all our MPs and community leaders to raise this issue at the highest level.

“I would also ask for your support and call on all Somerset residents to sign our petition so together we can make our voices heard.”

The petition can be found online at www.fairerfundingforsomerset.org

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