Rural funding is 'simply no longer tolerable', Sir Nick Harvey tells Commons
A Westcountry MP has torn into the Government for short-changing rural areas, meaning Devon and Cornwall get the "thinnest and most hopeless" public services.
In the House of Commons, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs bemoaned a "rural penalty" that means urban authorities get 50% more cash from central Government than rural councils.
Leading the attack, Sir Nick Harvey, Lib Dem MP for North Devon, said he had encountered a couple who left his constituency after a year as they found it "absolutely hopeless" trying to raise their disabled son in the area.
And Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who secured the debate, warned of mobilising the "rural yeomanry" without funding reform.
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Mr Harvey, a former Armed Forces Minister, said the disparity was "simply no longer tolerable" and warned complete areas of public services will cease.
He said: "People come to areas like Devon and Cornwall in the summer, the sun is shining and they think these areas are affluent. They are not. Devon and Cornwall are the two poorest counties in the country. Now will somebody tell me why the people who earn the least in the country pay the highest council tax, get the least support from Government and get the thinnest and most hopeless level of public services back. It just is not right."
He added: "It isn't right that there are so few social workers going out to deal with children, it isn't right that there are so few buses, it isn't right that I've had people moving in to my constituency with disabled children who about a year later have said it's absolutely hopeless, you cannot bring up a disabled child in this county, we are moving back from where we came. It's been going on for decades."
Sir Nick said by 2015/16 Devon County Council will have lost around 60% of its grant from Government in four financial years.
He said: "What we are going to see is complete areas of public service ceasing altogether and this is something I just don't believe the public understands, is ready for or is any sense willing to put up with."
Mr Parish said under current plans to freeze the local government financial settlement from next year until 2020, the disparity will become entrenched. "What we're now having is a dampening, a freezing, a back-to-square-one, and putting it in there for five years," he said.
But Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis insisted the Government had ensured "proper recognition of the additional costs of delivering services in rural areas".