MP Calls For Fairer Funding For Dorset
4:48pm 15th February 2013
South Dorset MP Richard Drax has missed out on championing a fairer local government funding settlement for Dorset.
The MP was due to speak in a debate in Parliament - but it was cut short due to an important announcement in the Commons.
Having investigated the rural finding settlement, however, Drax is determined to fight for a fairer share for Dorset - and South Dorset in particular.
"You can see how serious the situation is," he says. "Urban councils receive 50 per cent more in government grants per head than rural councils. On top of that, cuts to Dorset over the last three years have amounted to 38.6 per cent. That is a huge reduction. Worse, the government proposes that this formula should form the basis of future settlements for six more years, which would perpetuate the shortfall."
Quoting figures from his speech, Drax said that while this year, the average amount awarded per head in towns and cities in England is £487, in Purbeck (84 per cent rural) it is £215 and in West Dorset, (94 p er cent rural) it is £230.
In contrast, he says, Dorset residents pay a higher average council tax than urban dwellers.
"In rural Purbeck it is £594 and in West Dorset, £583," he says, "Compare that with the average £398 paid in urban areas. How can that be right when providing services to rural areas is more expensive?"
Drax also pointed out that the damping formula applied to the settlement was severely weakening the current provision for the additional costs of rural services.
"In the current year's settlement the amount included nationally for all rural shire districts in terms of increased sparsity allowances amounts to £40.1 million or 9.35%. After damping this reduces to £17.3 million or 3.8%. Dorset's share is woefully inadequate."
He warns that Councils have looked into the future and are concerned. "Weymouth and Portland will be pushed into negative trading within two years and be broke within five. And that's not an empty threat.
Already, West Somerset and five or six other councils have gone bust."
"Far from being rich, greedy revenue collectors, "stashing" our money away in reserves, our Councillors are fighting an uphill battle to stay solvent and to pay for all the services we need," he says. "They particularly object - and I agree with them - to being accused of being "immoral" by the Minister for wanting to raise Council tax when they have no other option."
"They want to know how it has come to this, under a predominantly Tory government - a government which traditionally likes to conserve."