East Sussex MPs call for ‘fair deal’ for rural communities

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Three East Sussex MPs have joined the call for a ‘fair deal’ for countryside communities across England.

Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, and Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, have all become parliamentary patrons of the Rural Fair Share campaign, which is calling on the Government to deliver a better settlement for rural local authorities.

It is a cross-party group of parliamentarians who are arguing for fairer funding for services across rural England.

According to a report by the Rural Services Network people living in the countryside earn less than those living in cities, but on average pay £81 more in council tax per person per year, and see their local authorities receive 50 per cent less Government funding per person than urban councils.

Mr Merriman said: “We live in a beautiful part of the country but I am aware of the need to be a champion of our rural community and to stand up for better broadband, public amenities and way of life in order to allow us to economically prosper.

“The rural support group allows MPs to come together in a show of strength to demand more for rural constituencies such as mine.”

Ms Ghani added: “Wealden has an above average number of small businesses, which include our farming community. For far too long we have undervalued our food producers and the importance of food security.

“Our farmers not only deserve a better deal from the big supermarkets but also from local and national government as poor communications and transport infrastructure make it difficult for them to compete.”

Mrs Caulfield said: “I believe it’s really important that rural areas get a fair share of funding. Our councils are having to provide new roads, extra school places, broadband infrastructure and lots more, yet without adequate amount of funding to do so. It’s crucially important that as Sussex MP’s we campaign for fairer funding for our area.”

Campaign chairman Graham Stuart, Beverley and Holderness MP, said: “Huw Merriman, Nus Ghani and Maria Caulfield have done an excellent job in representing their rural constituents and standing up for a fairer deal. I have been really impressed at how passionately they have championed this issue.

“People in rural areas earn less, pay higher council tax and then receive substantially less support for services. We are not arguing for more government spending overall but for a fair allocation of funding within the spending envelope. When money is tight it is more important, rather than less important, for funding allocations to be fair.”

The Rural Services Network, which represents more than 120 rural local authorities supporting the Rural Fair Share campaign, said the future of many countryside communities was under threat.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of the network, added: “Rural areas are being asked to make cuts in public spending that are similar to cuts in urban areas – even though countryside communities are already worse off in the first place.

We appreciate that urban areas are struggling too and they are very vocal about their cuts – but at least they start from a higher base and are in a generally stronger position.

“The government must consider that the situation in rural areas is getting worse. We are concerned about the long term viability of many rural communities.”

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