Market Rasen and Caistor MP Sir Edward Leigh has condemned Whitehall’s plans for local government funding as “unfair” to rural authorities.
Speaking in a House of Commons debate, Sir Edward noted that the proposed Local Government Funding Settlement would, on a per person basis, be cut by 31 per cent for West Lindsey District Council - while an urban council like Wolverhampton would only face an 18.6 per cent reduction.
“We are not bearing the burden equally”Sir Edward Leigh MP
He told MPs: “I accept that cuts have to be made. But local government has delivered broadly the same service over the last five years despite having to face considerable cuts.
“I have worked alongside Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council for decades, and they are not spendthrifts.They know the needs of our people far more than anyone in Whitehall does.
“We have already give up much of our invaluable network of local libraries, and got rid of our magistrates’ courts, and our police stations.
“How much more does Whitehall really expect that rural England can take?”
Sir Edward - an MP with 30 years’ service - pointed out that rural authorities like Lincolnshire included “real areas of deprivation”.
And he said it was “totally unacceptable” that “we are not bearing the burden equally”.
He added that the Local Government Finance Settlement was “totally unfair to the rural taxpayer and our rural authorities” and that it “must be revisited”.
West Lindsey District Council needs to make further reductions in its net expenditure, of about £2.2m over the next four years.
Its land and property and trading activity is anticipated to reduce this funding gap by more than £1m during this time.
And the council is looking to support this year, using reserves achieved through in year underspends in 2015-16 of £0.5m.
Council tax looks set to go up by 1.9 per cent, which is about 7p a week for a band D property.
The remaining funding gap is anticipated to be closed by further commercial opportunities and organisational transformation.
WLDC’s Medium Term Financial Plan, which commits the authority to deliver a balanced budget over the next four years, is being considered by the corporate policy and resources committee on February 11 and then by full council on March 3.
Policy and resources committee chairman Tom Regis said: “Whilst the outcome of the local government financial settlement for 2016/17 was disappointing and has provided a challenge to the authority, we believe the plans that have been put in place will ensure that residents continue to be well served and receive quality services.
“We have managed to reduce our spending over the last four years by £3.8 million and fixed council tax for three out of four years but further funding cuts means we have to do more.”