Wednesday, February 26, 2014
County council must shout louder about rural funding divide, warns councillor.
DEVON County Council needs to ‘bang on the door of 10 Downing Street’ and demand a fair-funding deal to protect services for the young, elderly and disabled, a local councillor has warned.
Council-run care homes, youth clubs and day centres could all close after the authority approved £28million worth of cuts on Thursday.
Frank Biederman, county councillor for Fremington Rural, spoke to the Gazette about the Rural Fair Share campaign before the budget meeting at County Hall in Exeter.
He said people in North Devon paid more council tax but received up to 40 per cent less in funding per head than urban areas.
“People in North Devon living in a band D property get £140 less funding from central government per household, per year than someone, say, living in Oxford,” he said.
“This money would pay for all the services the county is looking to cut; it would keep care homes, day centres, public record offices and youth centres open – and it would pay for road repairs.
“It’s massively unfair and the Government needs to level the playing field; we cannot survive until we get a fair deal.”
Mr Biederman said the Conservative-run county council needed to put Devon residents before its ‘political masters’.
“Devon County Council should be much more vociferous in its representations to central government,” he said.
“All groups at North Devon district level are fighting for a better deal – cross party and cross group, we are all fighting for North Devon residents and the county council should be taking our lead.
“I wouldn’t want to be (council leader) John Hart for all the tea in China but he needs to make the point to David Cameron and Eric Pickles.
“We need to be going up to Downing Street and banging on the front door. Now is the time to put the pressure on the Government and represent the people of Devon – not party politics.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Devon County Council approved a 1.99 per cent increase in council tax, equating to around a 42p a week rise for people living in a band D property.
In doing so, the council has missed out on a freeze grant of £3.3million, although the increase is estimated to bring in £24 million over the next four years.
Earlier this month, North Devon MP Nick Harvey slammed the Government’s lack of action on introducing fairer funding for rural communities.
Mr Harvey voted against the Local Government Finance Settlement 2014/15, which sets out government grant allocations for councils across England.
He said: “Why should some of the poorest people in the country, on the lowest wages, pay on average £86 higher in council tax than urban-dwellers, yet receive far less government funding and watch local services erode around them?
“This is an impossible situation for councils, who on average receive £145 less than their urban counterparts – a funding gap as wide as 50 per cent.”