Rural areas ‘shouldering unfair burden from spending squeeze’

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RURAL areas are shouldering an unfair burden from budget cuts, the Government has been warned.

People living in remote communities pay higher council tax but are “clearly getting less” spent on services, according to an alliance of rural councils.

Analysis by the Rural Services Network reveals that authorities in the countryside have less “spending power” per person than urban authorities, despite services costing more to run in remote areas – leaving them more vulnerable to cuts.

Rural Services Network chief officer Graham Biggs said the settlement was a “step too far” for England’s most sparsely populated areas

“Some urban authorities might have done worse than their rural counterparts, but they would have done so from a much better position,” said Mr Biggs.

“Rural residents are continuing to pay more in council tax than their urban neighbours and clearly getting less service expenditure in return.”

However, the Government insisted the spending settlement was “fair” to all parts of the country and funding was directed to where it was most needed.

The report was published as Labour announced details of its review into rural policy, which will examine challenges facing rural communities from affordable housing, rising living costs, the future of farming and ‘green’ jobs. It will feed into a wider policy review launched by leader Ed Miliband.

Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, said: “Everyone knows how hard it is for families to make ends meet with rising living costs and concerns about jobs. But these challenges are even more daunting in market towns and rural communities.

“Rural growth and the creation of new green jobs are essential if we want to see a lasting recovery for all. That is why we are asking not just how we protect rural Britain but also what future do we want for the countryside.”