Call for fairer dealer for public services

By Ian Dipple Tuesday 25 February 2014 Updated: 25/02 14:04

A NEW campaign has been called for to put pressure on the Government to ensure Worcestershire's public services are properly funded.

Worcestershire County Council has been asked to bring together the fire, police, district councils and county's NHS to secure a fairer deal from ministers as figures show Worcestershire is underfunded in a number of areas.

The county's schools receive about £1,000 per pupil less than Birmingham which places Worcestershire 147 out of 152 education authorities nationally. The county council receives just £243 per person compared to an average for a shire council of £264 per person - meaning Worcestershire is missing out on some £10.5million.

Redditch Borough Council has also received the worst government funding settlement in the county for the last two years, despite having the largest areas of deprivation, while Hereford and Worcester Fire and

Rescue Service gets just £14 per head, below the national average of £20.

Coun Peter McDonald, leader of the Labour group on the county council, led the calls for the new lobbying bid by tabling a motion at a recent meeting at County Hall. He said by ensuring Worcestershire's public services were getting their fair share it would limit the impact of the millions of pounds of cuts they were having to make.

"It's everything on the cheap and as each day goes by we get more like a third world country," he said.

"We need fair and equitable distribution of public money and the only way we will achieve that is by all of us in the public arena coming together across the county to demand fairer funding for Worcestershire to ensure we can protect the most vulnerable and deliver economic growth."

Conservative councillors supported the move but rejected suggestions pushing for fairer funding was something new, insisting they had been pressing the Government for a number of years and would continue to do so.

Coun John Campion, responsible for transformation and commissioning on the council, said: "Why should Metropolitan areas on our doorstep get better funding than Worcestershire? Why should the fire service get far better funding in the West Midlands than in Worcestershire?" he said.

"It was a failure of the last Labour government and a failure of this government to not sort out how we finance local government in a more transparent and fairer way."

Redditch MP Karen Lumley supported the move but said she already lobbied ministers at every opportunity, raised questions in Parliament and was trying to secure a debate on Worcestershire's future economic plan where the issue could be discussed.

"Historically for some reason Worcestershire seems to have lost out because it's seen as a leafy county with no deprivation, I don't know why that is, but we all need to work together to get better funding," she said.

"We do well at the moment but if we had more money we could do better and it's just not fair."

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