Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis travelled to London to urge Derbyshire MPs to back the campaign to make sure make sure public services get their fair share.
Derbyshire is in the bottom ten worst-funded councils – ranking 140 out of 150 upper-tier English local authorities in terms of money to spend per resident.
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 £257million already saved since 2010.
Joining Councillor Lewis was the county council’s Director of Finance and ICT Peter Handford, Strategic Director for Children’s Services Jane Parfrement and Acting Strategic Director for Adult Care Simon Stevens who explained first-hand the financial difficulties and pressures facing the county council and the services it provides.
Councillor Lewis said:
“We believe the current system of council funding is biased towards London boroughs, cities and the south of England and is fundamentally unfair to Derbyshire.
“In Islington the 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.”
“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.
“It’s time these inequalities were ironed out once and for all. But fairer funding alone isn’t enough. The simple fact is that councils up and down the country need more money from Government to continue providing vital services their residents rely on.”
The money that Derbyshire County Council receives comes from three different places – council tax, government grants and income from charging for some council services.
But in each of these three funding streams, Derbyshire loses out compared to most other areas of the country.
The county council responded to the Government’s fair funding review in February.
Now it has 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.
MPs agreeing to support the campaign following the meeting included North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley, Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin, South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler, Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham and Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills.
Councillor Lewis said:
“We’ve been calling for a Government review of council funding for a long time and now we have an opportunity to redress the balance for Derbyshire for generations to come.
“We want the Government to recognise areas where Derbyshire is underfunded and I’m pleased five Derbyshire MPs have agreed to take our case forward 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.”