ELECTION manifestos from the three traditional Westminster parties are a “mixed bag” for rural councils, a campaign group has claimed.
The Rural Services Network (RSN) is warning that public services in rural areas like North Yorkshire face ruin as predominately urban local authorities get more than £100 per head more than their rural counterparts.
The network’s research director, Brian Wilson, said: “Policies can be viewed as helpful for different reasons. In many cases the extent to which policies would actually benefit rural communities or businesses is going to be dependent on rural proofing and, hence, their subsequent design and delivery.”
The RSN launched its own manifesto with a series of “asks” for politicians ahead of the election, and has now compared the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos with its own document.
Mr Wilson added: “There is certainly some evidence that the ‘asks’ in the RSN manifesto have influenced policy thinking.”
All three parties intend to protect the Winter Fuel Payment for pensioners, which the RSN said is critical, but not all rural issues receive the attention that the RSN believes they deserve.
Mr Wilson added: “It is perhaps disappointing that local transport is not widely featured as a high priority in the manifestos.
It seems fair to say the exception to this is the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
“Only one of the three party manifestos refers directly to funding allocations to local authorities.
That is the Labour manifesto which is quite vague in referring to fairness, but this could be seen as implying a larger share for northern cities.”
The RSN, which represents more than 200 countryside organisations, has also said that residents in rural areas are experiencing real hardships as cuts in public services in their areas reach a crucial tipping point.
It expects the situation to get worse, regardless of the results of May’s elections, unless Whitehall’s funding formula for local authorities is rethought.
Deputy leader of North Yorkshire, County Council Carl Les, said: “I would certainly welcome a review of the funding formula.
We appreciate that inner cities do have issues but equally, we feel that our problems are exacerbated by the distances we have to travel to reach people.”