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Senior Cornwall councillors to meet minister in bid for fairer rural funding

By tobymeyjes  |  Posted: January 04, 2014

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Alex Folkes, portfolio holder for finance and resources, will join leader John Pollard and chief executive Andrew Kerr in the meeting with Brandon Lewis on Monday

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Senior Cornwall councillors will meet with the local government minister in London on Monday to press for fairer funding for the Duchy.

Cornwall currently receives less than half of the Government funding per person allocated to some London boroughs.

Despite this funding for the region is set to fall further still, with the council estimated to have to find £195million in savings over the next five years.

On average rural residents earn less than those in cities, pay council tax which is £76 more per person but see some urban areas receive Government grants worth 50% more per head than those in the countryside.

Cornwall Council which recently approved £43million in savings from its next budget, attributed the decision to a fall in central funding.

Leader John Pollard and portfolio holder for finance, Alex Folkes, will be accompanied by new chief executive Andrew Kerr, when they meet minister Brandon Lewis.

Mr Pollard said that despite Cornwall being one of the poorest regions of the UK - and the only part that qualifies for EU structural funding -it is still being unfairly.

He said: “In the autumn statement last month, the Chancellor recognised that there are additional costs associated with the rural nature of councils such as Cornwall.

“Our aim today is to persuade the minister to back that understanding up with the money we need.”

Despite the Government allocating more than £400,000 in additional funding to the council in last month’s autumn statement, it still faces heavy cuts.

Government funding is expected to fall by £93million by 2018/19, on top of reductions of £36million by 2015/16.

But if Cornwall’s government grant of £408 per person was brought in to line with that given to the London borough of Hackney, £1,041 per person, it would generate a further £48million for the county.

Alex Folkes, cabinet member for finance and resources, said that would be enough to prevent the loss of a lot of front line services.

He said: “Our message to the minister is that Cornwall has already done a huge amount to save money and we have more savings in the pipeline.

“But the services that the people of Cornwall rely on are threatened by the extent of his cuts.”

The rural fair share campaign, which calls for the Government to address the disparity in funding between rural and urban areas, has been endorsed by many Cornish MPs.

In November, Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, had a petition to parliament calling for a fair deal.

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