Wiltshire council has suffered considerable cuts over the last few years, which residents experience as worse services. There is of course political debate about whether austerity is necessary, and I am unconvinced that the coalition is on the right track.
However, according to figures from the Rural Services Network, the government’s austerity measures are doubly damaging in Wiltshire because the funding formula for rural councils gives on average 50% less money per head than urban councils. Yet the dispersed population costs councils more to service. Rural counties like Wiltshire have higher costs, a typically more elderly population requiring more services, and lower average household incomes than the big cities.
The Labour Party’s spokesperson for local government, Andy Sawford, has pledged to overhaul this unfair formula when Labour forms the next government.
However, the government has an opportunity to put this right during next month’s local authority spending settlement. Finding a fair solution for funding rural councils has support not only from the Labour Party, but also from 26 Conservative and Lib Dem MPs, who presented a petition to parliament last week. Sadly Chippenham’s Lib Dem MP is not yet supporting a change.
Published and promoted by Chippenham Labour Party on behalf of Andy Newman, both of 5 Elm Hayes, Corsham, SN13 9JW