ON November 4, North Dorset MP Bob Walter submitted a petition to the House of Commons backing the Rural Fair Share campaign.

The petition had been signed by constituents supporting the aims of the Rural Fair Share campaign to reduce the funding gap between urban and rural areas and create a level playing field for local councils under the Local Government Finance Settlement.

Specifically, the Rural Fair Share campaign is calling for a reduction in the rural penalty for 2014/15, which sees urban areas receive 50 per cent more support per head than rural areas, despite the higher costs of rural service delivery. Current plans could see this inequity frozen into the system until 2020 and Mr Walter thinks this is wrong.

He said: “The campaign’s proposal for a ten per cent reduction in this disparity by 2020 is a pragmatic and achievable one, which can be done using existing resources by reducing urban funding by an extra one-quarter of one per cent per year, and without placing any individual authority in a worse position than others would have to bear anyway.

“My Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues backing this petition accept the need for everyone to contribute to deficit reduction and no one is demanding higher spending here. All we ask is that the historic disparity between urban and rural funding not be locked in for another seven years and that action be taken to start reducing it.

“Our rural communities already pay higher than average council tax due to the cost of rural service delivery and have lower average salaries than their urban counterparts. Yet urban authorities receive government grants 50 per cent higher per person than those in the countryside, in part due to population density weighting.

“In difficult financial times it is even more important, in my view, that such allocations are seen to be fair and based on objective need – not on historic lobbying power. The Coalition Government, unlike its predecessor, has shown itself sympathetic to this unfairness, but more needs to be done, and sooner, to fix this inherently biased funding system.”