A row is brewing in the Tory party over a new funding plan which rural MPs say will harm elderly care in the countryside, The Huffington Post UK has learned.
On Tuesday evening some 25 Conservative MPs representing rural areas gave the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid “a particularly hard time” on countryside spending in a heated private meeting in Westminster, sources told HuffPost UK.
The Government’s latest local spending plan, which was published in December, would strip rural constituencies of money they could otherwise spend on social and elderly care, MPs told HuffPost UK.
Tory MPs accused Theresa May of spending less on rural areas because they are less profitable.
One MP told HuffPost UK the Government’s plan is now to “only invest in places that give a bang for our buck.”
“This means huge disparities in areas as with lots of elderly people and few businesses,” they said.
Under a plan set by former Chancellor George Osborne in October 2015, local councils will by 2020 be able to keep money they raise from a tax on business properties, known as business rates.
Currently councils keep up to 50 percent of the rates, and the rest goes to Westminster, where it is doled out to constituencies roughly according to need.
Instead from 2020 all the proceeds will go into councils’ individual funding pots which they can then use for social and elderly care, among other things.
Rural MPs in 2016 won extra funding to compensate for the plan, after they successfully argued that countryside areas, which tend to have fewer businesses and more elderly people, would unfairly lose out.
But MPs told HuffPost UK that new Government plans revealed in December had quietly reduced this extra funding, leaving rural areas worse off.
“The Government narrative has changed. Lots of MPs are starting to realise what it means. Particularly Southwest MPs, or really anyone with a high proportion of the elderly” one Tory MP said.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said:
“Our Fair Funding Review is assessing councils’ needs – we will ensure areas that currently collect less in local business rates get their fair share of funding, and that councils are adequately protected from business rates volatility.
“Councils have spent decades campaigning for 100% retention of business rates, and this Government has listened. By the end of this parliament, local government will retain all the taxes raised locally – an additional £12.5billion – giving them a real incentive to support local jobs and businesses.”