It’s no secret that year on year councils up and down the country are getting less money from Government to spend on vital services people rely on.
This is a problem that affects us all.
But Derbyshire is facing an additional problem. It doesn’t get its fair share of funding compared to other councils because of the way the Government calculates who gets what.
In fact, Derbyshire is in the bottom ten worst-funded councils and ranks 140 out of 150 upper-tier English local authorities – including county councils, city councils and London boroughs – in terms of the money we have to spend per resident.
Islington Council has £952 to spend on every resident – in Derbyshire it’s just £718 per resident. And if Derbyshire was funded at the same level as Kensington and Chelsea we’d be better off by £238 million – that’s an extra £300 to spend on every resident for things like libraries, school improvement and services for people who are more vulnerable, including senior citizens and people with disabilities.
I believe the current system of council funding is biased towards London boroughs, cities and the south of England and is fundamentally unfair to Derbyshire.
It simply can’t be fair that people in Derbyshire, like people all over the country, pay their income tax to Government yet we receive less back from national funds than 90 per cent of other councils.
Councils in areas with more expensive properties, like London and the south, can raise far more in council tax than Derbyshire is able to. And councils in urban areas can bring in a lot of money from things like car parking and toll roads. The rural and small town nature of Derbyshire means opportunities to raise income on a large scale are limited and this isn’t taken into account in Government funding.
That’s why we’ve called on Parliament to make sure there’s ‘A Fair Share for Derbyshire’ at a time when Government is reviewing how funding is allocated.
This week I travelled to Westminster with three of the county council’s most senior officers to explain the financial difficulties and pressures we’re facing to five Derbyshire MPs and to urge them to back the campaign to make sure our public services get their fair share of funding.
Over the next five years, under the current funding formula, the council needs to save £63.2m from a budget of £519.5m – on top of £257 million already saved since 2010.
The money that Derbyshire County Council receives comes from three different places – council tax, government grants and income from charging for some council services.
To be frank all councils need more money from Government to continue providing services for their residents. But in each of these three funding streams, Derbyshire loses out compared to most other areas of the country.
So we’ve launched the Fair Share for Derbyshire campaign which focuses on seven ‘asks’ to Government to make sure the county gets its fair share in the future:
- Significant local differences, such as the fact Derbyshire’s elderly population is much higher than the national average, should be taken into account when money is handed out.
- It is unfair that council tax payers in some areas of the country pay less yet receive more local services whereas in other areas council tax payers pay more but their local services are being cut. This postcode lottery should end.
- One-off or short term funding from Government is only a sticking plaster. Councils should be properly baseline funded so they can plan future services for their residents.
- Cities benefit under the current funding formula at the expense of rural areas because no account is taken of the extra cost of providing services – such as public and school transport and social care – over a wide or remote area.
- For councils such as Derbyshire with large upland areas, the cost of gritting roads in winter should be a factor in Government funding.
- Funding for new Government initiatives, burdens and pressures, such as unaccompanied asylum seekers, should be adequate to meet our responsibilities.
- Overall the national budget for funding local council services is simply not large enough to maintain vital services such as children’s and adult social care.
We’ve been calling for a Government review of council funding for a long time. All we’re
looking for is an even playing field with other areas across the country, at the heart of which should be an evidence-led approach on outcomes that are achieved.
We want the Government to recognise areas where Derbyshire is underfunded and I was encouraged by the fact that all the MPs we met this week agreed to support our campaign and make sure our voice is heard in Parliament.
Local government can’t continue to survive in this climate. Councils do their fair share in bringing in money, residents do their fair share in paying council tax, now it’s time for Government to do its fair share.
Find out more at http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/fairshare