Saturday, 30 January 2016

Rebellion in the SouthWest >>> local government finances

Some are warning that the hike in fees for beach huts is only the start:
Futures Forum: East Devon beach huts >>> and the District Council's 'Transformation Strategy'

One of the problems being what to do with local authority assets:
Futures Forum: Of devolution, local assets and investing locally

Especially in the context of the promises of devolution:
Futures Forum: Breaking news >>> Devolution for Devon and Somerset? >>> Hinkley Point delayed

In other words, local government is under considerable stress at the moment - right across the country:
Futures Forum: The decline of social democracy, the rise of austerity and the promise for local politics

There will be a demonstration in Sidmouth on Monday challenging central government cuts to local government - within the context of the apparent ease with which corporation tax is applied:
Tax avoidance protest to be staged in Sidmouth - News - Sidmouth Herald
Tax avoidance demo: Sidmouth, 1 February 11 am | East Devon Watch
Futures Forum: Corporation tax, small towns and small businesses >>> giving SMEs the same 'level playing field' as multinationals >>> demonstration Monday 1st February

Meanwhile, in Scotland, local councils are in rebellion at the SNP government's proposals:
Angry councils defy Swinney in rebellion over budget cuts | The Times
Fife Council leader says SNP tax freeze is ‘more hurtful than Thatcher’ - Politics / News / The Courier

Whilst south of the border, the government is under real pressure from its own ranks:
David Cameron ‘facing major rebellion’ over council cuts | Politics | News | London Evening Standard

In the Southwest, rebellion is also threatened - especially as it was this part of the country which delivered the government its current (rather thin) majority:
WMN ELECTION OPINION: West helped Tories win the election. Now we want our reward | Western Morning News
Futures Forum: An independent South-West?

In Devon, the locals are getting very restless:
Plea to keep lollipop school crosssing patrols in Devon | Western Morning News
JOURNAL LETTERS: Funding cuts hit communities hard | North Devon Journal
Householders in Devon and Cornwall face tax double whammy | Western Morning News

With an extraordinary vote at County Council this week:
Devon County Council agrees my proposal to urge MPs to speak and vote against huge funding cuts - Claire Wright
Sometimes you wonder if DCC and EDDC are on the same planet let alone run by the same party | East Devon Watch

And the rebellion is spreading: this is from the latest Western Morning News:

South West MPs poised to rebel over rural funding settlement

By WMNKLangston | Posted: January 29, 2016

(L-R) DCLG secretary Greg Clarke, North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones and St Ives MP Derek Thomas

Comments (1)

Westcountry Tory MPs have threatened to rebel over proposed cuts to local government funding, as they accuse ministers of widening urban-rural divides.

A number of the region’s rural MPs have written to ministers calling for a review of funding offers, which they claim favour metropolitan areas.

Many hope this will result in changes to the final local government settlements before the proposals are put to a vote in February. And some have even indicated they could not support the Government in the vote, if they do not see sufficient improvements.

The action follows a passionate debate in Westminster, which saw MPs from across the UK calling for a fairer funding settlement for their rural constituencies. Members from the South West highlighted a raft of challenges facing their local communities, including poor transport links, high deprivation levels and the costs of running rural services.

MPs reassure farmers following 'shocking failures' with payment scheme
Tory MPs lambast Government over rural funding plans
Householders in Devon and Cornwall face tax double whammy

Making the case for the Westcountry was St Ives MP Derek Thomas, who is also among the signatories on the letter. He currently serves on the Rural Fair Share Working Group, and states he does not find the settlement acceptable “and would not be able to support it”.

“Even with the Rural Services Delivery Grant, the gap in central government funding between urban and rural residents will widen further under the provisional funding settlement,” he said

“Local government savings should be applied evenly across councils... as they were in the previous Parliament. Rural MPs, particularly in the South West, are working together to secure fair funding settlements for health, education, policing and local government. As we succeed, we will be correcting a funding arrangement that has discriminated against rural areas over successive governments.”

Under the provisional settlement announced in December, Cornwall Council will see its grant cut by £12 million in 2016/17, bringing its average spend per household down from £1,687 to £1,643. Devon will see its grant cut by £14 million, reducing spending per household from £1,402 to £1,363.

In contrast, despite a £15 million squeeze on Manchester’s grant, per household spend in the city will be £1,872. And over the next year the Greater London Authority will see its budget increase by £26 million.

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones has also signed the letter and says he is “unhappy” with the settlement. But he did not specify how he would vote and said he wants to work with ministers to “try to put it right”.

“The problem is that the new formula the Government is introducing to calculate the size of the grant appears to discriminate unfairly against rural local authorities,” he said. “We understand that we need to live within our means – we understand that the size of the cake is limited – but we want that cake to be sliced more fairly. The provisional settlement is not acceptable, and we, as a group of South West MPs, have written at a very senior level to the Government to say we are not happy. I hope it will change before the final settlement next month.”

St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double said that as the figures currently stand, the settlement “widens the funding gap from central government between rural and metropolitan areas”. He said he hopes the letter will persuade ministers “to think again and not leave rural areas such as Cornwall worse off... than they currently are”.

Wells MP James Heappey stressed the news is “not all bad”, with rural councils already promised fairer funding for education under the Conservatives. But he said he has “made it clear” both in speeches and conversations with ministers that he expects to see the settlement changed.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said ministers were increasing funding for rural councils from £15.5 million this year to £65million by 2020. “Councils in England will have almost £200 billion for local services between now and 2020 and the multi year budgets we are proposing will allow them to spend that money with greater certainty,” he said.

The vote on the final local government settlement is expected to take place in the second week of February.

South West MPs poised to rebel over rural funding settlement | Western Morning News

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