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Petitions

Volume 572: debated on Monday 16 December 2013

Petitions

Monday 16 December 2013

Observations

Communities and Local Government

Rural Fair Share Campaign

The Petition of residents of Newark,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the Local Government Finance Settlement is unfair to rural communities; notes that the Rural Penalty sees urban areas receive 50% more support per head than rural areas despite higher costs in rural service delivery; and opposes the planned freezing of this inequity in the 2013–14 settlement for six years until 2020.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reduce the Rural Penalty in staged steps by at least 10% by 2020.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Patrick Mercer, Official Report, 4 December 2013; Vol. 571, c. 15P .]

[P001309]

Petitions in same terms were presented by the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) [P001303]; the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) [P001267]; the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) [P001269]; Anonymous [P001294]; Anonymous [P001293]; Anonymous [P001286]; the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) [P001237]; the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) [P001279]; the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) [P001281]; the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr Newmark) [P001233]; the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) [P001234]; the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) [P001235]; the hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) [P001236]; the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) [P001238]; the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) [P001239]; the hon. Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods) [P001240]; the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) [P001242]; the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) [P001243]; the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) [P001244]; the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice) [P001245]; the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) [1246]; the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) [P001247]; the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) [P001249]; the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) [P001250]; the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) [P001251]; the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) [P001252]; the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) [P001253]; the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) [P001254]; the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) [P001255]; the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) [P001258]; the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) [P001259]; the hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) [P001261]; the right hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr O'Brien) [P001263]; the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) [P001266]; the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin) [P001268]; the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) [P001270]; the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley) [P001271]; the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) [P001273]; the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Peter Luff) [P001274]; the right hon. Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Arbuthnot) [P001276]; the hon. Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) [P001277]; the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) [P001278]; the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir Alan Haselhurst) [P001280]; the hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) [P001282]; the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) [P001264]; the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) [P001265]; Anonymous [P001272]; Anonymous [P001262].

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The 2013-14 Local Government Finance Settlement was a fair settlement which provides councils with an average spending power including Public Health Grant per dwelling of £2,216 to protect services. It has allowed councils to prioritise service reforms, freeze council tax and build up new local growth income. Average spending power including Public Health Grant reduces by just 1.3 per cent in 2013-14. Since April councils have directly retained nearly £11 billion of business rates instead of returning it to the Government.

The Government have announced it will provide funding to help local government in England freeze council tax in 2014-15 and 2015-16. This will mean we have helped English authorities freeze their council tax for an unprecedented five successive years,.

Overall this year’s settlement provided stability at the start of business rates retention to allow authorities to benefit from business rates growth and protected the most grant dependent authorities, whether they are rural or urban authorities. Funding per head in predominantly rural areas reduced by less than in predominantly urban areas, for all classes of authority. The urban-rural gap in spending power per head shows an even more marked narrowing from 2012-13 to 2013-14.

In setting the business rates retention baseline we increased the weighting and top-ups for sparsity that we consulted on in 2012. We have also paid £8.5 million by Section 31 grant to 95 rural local authorities in 2013-14. This is a transitional grant to help authorities with the highest levels of sparsity secure efficiencies in services delivered to sparse populations

On 9 October the Minister for Local Government announced the successful bids for the Transformation Challenge Award, and 18 local authorities will share a £6.9 million reward for radically overhauling how they do business, as part of our pledge to transform public services. A number of rural authorities were successful in their bids for the Transformation Challenge Award. A rural shire district was also the largest beneficiary of the new Efficiency Support Grant in 2013-14.

We will carefully consider all representations made as part of the forthcoming Local Government Finance Settlement for 2014-15. However, Ministers have been clear that politicians should not play one part of the country off against each other, and the Government wants to see fairness for all parts of country, rural and urban, north and south, metropolitan and shire.