Small rural district authorities are showing “clear signs” of financial stress due to government cuts, according to latest figures.
Responding to a National Audit Office report, the Rural Services Network says financial pressures are particularly hard for parish and smaller town councils as they have the least scope for cutbacks.
Graham Biggs, at the RSN said, “Local authority budgets have been cut very significantly, by 40 per cent in real terms over the lifetime of the current Parliament.
“Little, if any, scope for efficiencies now remains and cuts are inevitably hitting frontline services, particularly those defined as discretionary or non-statutory. In short, there is no more left to give. This is a greater problem in rural areas historically underfunded and so service levels were at a low starting point before austerity cuts were imposed.
“It is widely accepted it costs more to deliver public services to scattered rural populations. Government recently introduced an additional £11.5 million pot for rural local authorities.
“It is worth £1.10 per head in those rural authorities receiving it – tiny when set alongside the £178 per head funding gap in government grant per head of population for rural areas compared to urban.”