Council calls for urgent funding rethink
By James HoreA COUNTY council fears it is missing out on up to £7million because the Government has been using out-of-date census information to calculate its funding.
By James Hore
A COUNTY council fears it is missing out on up to £7million because the Government has been using out-of-date census information to calculate its funding.
Essex County Council claimed the Government was using figures from the 1991 census, which the authority claimed did not reflect how many people there were now living in the county.
Council officials said that if the shortfall was to be passed on to people's council tax, it would equate to a 1.6 % increase.
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They added the dated information does not account for the population changes in Essex over the past decade and underestimated the pressures on children's services, which the county council is legally bound to deliver.
Now Essex County Council and a number of local authorities across the South-East have called on the Government to use the 2001 census information when it calculates how much funding it will give them for 2005/6.
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Lord Hanningfield, the leader of the council, said the Government had to rethink its approach and added: "Central government is trying to have it both ways. When it comes to calculating the number of new homes it wants to build, it is able to use the latest figures available.
"When it wants to calculate central government's contribution to local authorities, it chooses out-of-date figures."
David Finch, the council's cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said: "It is only sensible that local government takes into consideration the real world and real-time pressures on local authorities when calculating their individual grants.
"We have already lost out from the Government moving its grant contributions from the South-East to authorities in the North.
"This is another example of central government failing to look at current pressures on front-line services and leaving the council tax payer to pick up the tab."
No-one from the Treasury was available for comment last night.