There has always been an historic imbalance in the amount of funding that is given by central Government to local authorities, with urban councils disproportionately benefiting at the expense of more rural ones like Cornwall Council, which face the challenges of providing services to an aging population in remote, geographically difficult areas.
That is why I joined the other local MPs in pressing the Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government to address this longstanding problem-and to give him credit-the Local Government Finance Settlement, which was announced this week, takes an important step in the right direction.
Under these new proposals, the amount of assistance provided to rural authorities, the Rural Services Delivery Grant, will be increased fivefold from £15.5million in 2015/16 to £80.5 million in 2016/17, which is recognition of the extra costs faced in delivering services in rural areas. Cornwall Council in particular will received £2.95 million in additional RSDG funding in 2016/17 and £1.46 million in 2017/18.
In addition, the Government has also announced that they will review the formula which is used when deciding how much funding local councils receive. This formula hasn’t been changed in ten years, but will now be amended so that it takes greater account of our ageing population and the pressure which this places on local services. This is a good deal for Cornwall, and will help close the unfair funding gap which has existed between rural and urban councils.
There has also been some positive news from the Department for Transport, which has announced that, despite earlier concerns, funding will be provided for Network Rail to carry out two important studies that will look at improving the railway infrastructure between London and Cornwall. I wrote to the Department for Transport, pressing them to provide funding for this study on electrification and journey time reduction-which will inform an important report that the Peninsula Rail Task Force is presenting to the Government this summer on the future of further investment and improvements in the South West rail network.