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Local Authority Funding: Cumbria

Volume 689: debated on Monday 22 February 2021

Core spending power in England will rise from £49 billion in this financial year to £51.3 billion in 2021-22, which is a 4.6% cash-terms increase—a real-terms rise. Councils in Cumbria will see their core spending power rise to more than £483 million—a 4.5% increase in cash terms—and they will also receive more than £30 million in un-ringfenced covid support to help them to build back better in the next financial year.

Rural bus services are a lifeline for people in Penrith and The Border. In 2014, Cumbria County Council decided to stop using central Government funds to subsidise commercial bus services, which has had a negative impact on provision, meaning that some communities in Cumbria are no longer served by regular bus routes. Does my hon. Friend agree that the council should change its position and use the available funds to support rural bus routes to allow people to go about their lives, reconnect and help to address the issue of rural isolation?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is a champion for the community that he represents. He is certainly right that Cumbria County Council has the flexibility to invest in these bus services, perhaps even using some of the £20 million increase that it will receive through the local government finance settlement. Through the Department for Transport, we are also providing an additional £20 million rural mobility fund to support services in rural and suburban areas, and Cumbria has been successful at phase 1 and has recently submitted a business case for review at phase 2, but he is absolutely right to raise this matter. The council does have the flexibility to make these decisions, which I know is of huge importance to him and to his constituents.