In last week’s Budget debates, Mid Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston made the case for a fairer distribution of funding across the country for public expenditure. He focused in particular on the deficit in funding experienced in rural areas such as his constituency of Mid Worcestershire, especially with regard to education and health.
Whilst he asserted that the community spirit and problem-solving instincts of the people of Worcestershire make the county one of the best places to live in the country, Mr Huddleston argued that the perception of rural areas as leafy idylls has allowed funding disparities to go unchallenged for too long. He made this point by referring to the fact that weekly wages in Worcestershire are £39 below average yet per pupil secondary school funding in his constituency is as much as £3,000 per year lower than in many parts of London.
In addition to this, the South Worcestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group gets more than £100 less per patient than average and as much as £500 less per patient than urban areas in the northwest. He concluded that fair funding is essential to a fair society and argued that areas like Worcestershire – areas in which people actually earn less than average – are due their fair share of education and health funding. He added that there is a clear link between school funding and social mobility and said that it is a core responsibility of government to create an environment in which children can reach their full potential – and providing a good education for all is key to achieving that. He added that he and most of his constituents are supportive of increases in overall spending on schools - even if this means a small increase in taxation.
After leaving the House of Commons, Mr Huddleston said, “the point I have made today is one that I have been making throughout my time in Parliament. Worcestershire and other rural areas simply do not get their fair share of public funding and that means less to spend on resources in schools and less to spend on medicines and treatments.
I will continue to bang this drum until public funding arrangements are equitable. We have seen good progress with a fairer school funding formula and £29.6 million of targeted funding for Worcestershire’s acute hospitals. This should only be the beginning of a longer and more substantive process towards bridging the rural-urban funding divide and ensuring that everyone in the country, no matter where they are born, has access to the same standard of services and the same opportunities.”