Shropshire MP Helen Morgan has lambasted the funding settlement offered to Councils as ‘totally inadequate’ for local authorities dealing with rising costs and the demand for services in rural areas.
Analysis by the House of Commons Library shows local authorities face a nearly £6 billion decrease in real terms funding, compared to the settlement in 2016/2017. This is a 38% cut in funding per person in real terms in England overall.
In the same time period, Shropshire Council has had its funding cut by £37.3 million in real terms – this is the equivalent to a 51.3% real-terms cut which is significantly higher than the average English council cut.
Helen used a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday to highlight the huge impact this cut is having on residents’ lives in North Shropshire, including the loss of Whitchurch Civic Centre.
Rural councils are hit particularly hard by the unfair central government finance settlement due to the lower income they receive from council tax and business rates compared to their urban counterparts.
Helen also suggested that a key reason why councils are struggling so severely with their budgets is the Government’s reluctance to address the backlogs in their audits. Only 12% of local government bodies published their audits for 2021-2022 by the deadline given, despite a two-month extension.
She has also cited work by the Rural Services Network, who found that urban councils receive 57% more funding per head to spend on public health than rural councils.
It comes as Shropshire Council continues to spend around 80% of its budget on social care, a service that costs rural councils far more than urban councils because of the older population and larger distances that are in place in rural areas.
Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire, said, “People in Shropshire are going to be paying more council tax for drastically reduced services. This will be the same in rural areas up and down the country.
“This settlement is the latest of a long line of examples that prove the Government does not understand the challenges facing rural areas like North Shropshire.
“I receive endless complaints about delays to adult social care services, children not receiving the SEND support they need, failing public transport services; the list could go on forever.
“You can see the impact of this wherever you go in the county, the most obvious example being the terrible state of our roads and pavements.
“When I knock on doors, what residents ask for is high-quality public services. Local government is key to delivering that, and must be a priority for the next Government.”