The Rural Services Network is calling on the government to ensure that rural communities receive fairer funding for vital public services.
It comes as the government prepares to announce its local government settlement for 2018-19 – its annual determination of funding for local authorities in England.
The RSN maintains that central government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas, giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the higher cost of providing services in sparsely populated rural areas.
Yet, in 2017-18, urban areas received some 45 per cent (£116) per head in government-funded spending power more than their rural counterparts, it says.
The network has actively campaigned over very many years in raising the issue of unfair funding for rural local authorities and the communities they serve.
The disparity in funding is set to increase to 55 per cent in 2019-20 based on figures from the local government finance settlement for the previous year.
Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and pay more council tax for fewer local government services, says the Rural Services Network, which notes that public health allocations to local authorities in 2017-18 were 56.1 per cent greater per head in urban areas than rural.
Rural Services Network chief executive Graham Biggs said: “Rural residents pay more, receive fewer services and, on average, earn less than those in urban areas and that is inequitable.
“Cutbacks in government funding over recent years have had a bigger impact in rural areas than in other areas as their services start from a thinner base, says the Rural Services Network.
Mr Biggs said: “In times of reducing public expenditure it is more, rather than less, important to distribute available resources between different areas fairly.”