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South Dorset MP Richard Drax warns councils in Dorset could 'go broke'
SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax is calling for fairer funding for Dorset councils ‘before they go broke’.
Mr Drax said he supports local councils in their fight for fairer local government funding and is campaigning for a fairer share for Dorset and south Dorset.
He has spoken out after a debate in parliament on rural funding settlement yesterday.
He said: “Weymouth and Portland will be pushed into negative trading within two years and be broke within five and that’s not an empty threat.
“Already, west Somerset and five or six other councils have gone bust.
“Far from being rich, greedy revenue collectors, stashing our money away in reserves, our councillors are fighting an uphill battle to stay solvent and to pay for all the services we need.
“They particularly object, and I agree with them, to being accused of being immoral by the minister for wanting to raise council tax when they have no other option.”
Mr Drax said that this year the average amount awarded per head in town and cities in England is more than double that in rural areas such as Purbeck and West Dorset.
He said: “Urban councils receive 50 per cent more in government grants per head than rural councils.
“On top of that, cuts to Dorset over the last three years have amounted to 38.6 per cent.
“That is a huge reduction and worse, the government proposes that this formula should form the basis of future settlements for six more years, which would perpetuate the shortfall.
“You can see how serious the situation is.”
Mr Drax said residents in rural areas are also faced with higher council tax bills than in urban ones.
He added: “In rural Purbeck council tax is £594 and in West Dorset it’s £583.
“Compare that with the average £398 paid in urban areas.
“How can that be right when providing services in rural areas is more expensive.
“In the current year's settlement the amount included nationally for all rural shire districts in terms of increased allowances amounts to £40.1 million or 9.3 per cent.
“After damping this reduces to £17.3 million or 3.8 per cent Dorset’s share is woefully inadequate.”
Mr Drax said that while this year the average amount awarded per head in towns and cities in England is £487, in Purbeck which is 84 per cent rural it is £215 and in West Dorset, 94 per cent rural, it is £230.
In contrast Dorset residents pay a higher average council tax than urban dwellers, he says.
Mr Drax was due to speak in a debate on local government funding in rural communities yesterday but was unable to due to time restrictions at the event.