County leaders seeking fairer funding commitment

More than 30 leaders of England’s largest councils have written an open letter urging the Prime Minister to see through his promise to ‘level up’ funding for the country’s ‘left behind’ places.

With shire county areas currently missing out on £3.2 billion of funding per year compared to other parts of the country, councillors are calling on the government to provide emergency funding for local services next year, and a ‘cast iron’ commitment to implement fairer funding reforms from 2021.

The letter to the Telegraph follows the early pledges of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he focused on levelling up funding in areas such as schools and infrastructure, with fears raised by council leaders that previous government pledges to provide ‘fairer funding’ for rural and shire county councils were facing uncertainty.

The County Councils Network says that local councils in England’s rural and shire counties are the lowest funded upper-tier authorities; receiving just £240 per person for public services such as social care, children’s social services, public health, bin collections and libraries – 60 per cent less compared to residents in inner London receive (£601) and 46 per cent less compared to councils in metropolitan and city authorities (£419).

If the 36 councils that make up the County Councils Network were funded at the same per person average in England, they would be receiving an additional £3.2 billion per year.

Following the announcement there would only be a one-year spending review, county leaders say they will accept a short delay to a new funding system being introduced in return for a ‘cast-iron’ commitment from the new government that it will conclude and implement the review – and provide an emergency injection of additional funding next year.

Unless the new government provides additional resources and a commitment to fairer funding, CCN warns that they will have to cut back on frontline care services, repairs to potholes, streetlights and youth and sure start centres. They also say that they will have no choice but to continue raising council tax in years to come to make up the funding shortfall.

The letter says: “If the Prime Minister is to fulfil his pledge to level up opportunity in this country, then we must have a cast iron commitment to fair funding for our underfunded and overburdened councils.  Boris Johnson knows from his time as London Mayor how the capital benefitted from more generous funding; enabling him to invest its infrastructure and local services, while cutting council tax. It is time our shire counties were given the same opportunities.”