Rural areas 'paying more' council tax

PEOPLE living in rural areas are paying more council tax than their counterparts in the big cities, but get fewer local services, according to a new report.

PEOPLE living in rural areas are paying more council tax than their counterparts in the big cities, but get fewer local services, according to a new report.

The study, published by a coalition of England's 50 most rural local authorities, argues that an "urban bias" in the way grants are handed out is the reason for the disparity.

Funding Town and Country claims that providing key services is more costly in remote areas than in cities, owing to factors such as the distance between properties, and the high average age of the population,

The coalition is lobbying the government to look at these factors and to provide higher grants to help rural councils balance their budgets.

There has been outrage in Suffolk and Essex over the hikes in council tax, with the charges rising by 18.5% and 16.7% respectively.

Local people have set up groups to protest against further rises, including the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS).

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Graham Biggs, Co-Chairman of Sparse, the group of rural councils that commissioned the report, said: "Rural deprivation and the extra cost of providing services to far-flung rural communities is simply under-recognised.

"The many people who have enjoyed holidays in beautiful rural England this year should bear in mind that they have visited many communities whose local services faces severe over-stretch.

"We want Ministers to take a serious look at the extra costs we as a group of authorities face, and to recognise these factors when handing out central government grant support."

A spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said: "We feel this year's settlement is fair for all local authorities.

"For the first year ever all local authorities have an above inflation increase in grants.

"Last year we introduced a new system for grants that was fairer for all local authorities, distributing money to where it was needed most.

"Part of this took into account the cost of delivering services in rural areas."

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