State of the District Debate generates ‘food for thought’

Posted on: 2 June 2016

On Wednesday 25 May, Mid Devon District Council held its ‘State of the District’ Debate. The evening focused on the pros and cons of rural versus urban funding and gave those attending a very enlightening account of the differences faced by a rural authority such as Mid Devon in attracting funding; as opposed to those faced by a large city such as Plymouth.

Speaking on behalf of rural funding we were pleased to have Graham Biggs, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network. Graham has a wealth of experience in lobbying central government for a better deal for the rural area and we were interested to hear his thoughts and observations on the various formulae and criteria that impact upon the relative ups and downs of rural funding.

On the urban side we were pleased to have Giles Perritt, Assistant Chief Executive of Plymouth City Council. As well as providing a very interesting perspective from a senior officer at an urban authority, Giles very obviously a passionate fan of all things Plymouth, regaled us with many facts, figures and stories about past, present and future, and did a good job of encouraging all attendees to make a visit!

The debate was chaired by the Chairman of the Council, John Daw, who teased out a range of thought provoking questions from the audience. These included the potential impact of local authorities being funded in future from local business rate collection rather than an overall grant settlement, the impact of house price changes and re-evaluation for council tax, rural services delivery being benchmarked against urban in terms of the costs of delivering in a sparsely populated environment, the ageing population in rural areas, and the impact on the health service.

In summing up, Council Leader Clive Eginton reflected on some of Mid Devon’s most recent achievements and where it sees the future, with increasing opportunity but perhaps more limited funds being directly provided. In all likelihood this will affect both the rural and urban parts of Devon, and indeed the country, and we will need to appreciate each other’s issues as we move forward – increasingly in a range of partnerships across all manner of local authority boundaries.

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