Last night John Whittingdale, Member of Parliament for Maldon, presented the Rural Fair Share Petition signed by residents of St Lawrence in Maldon. 25 other Members of Parliament representing rural constituencies presented petitions in similar terms.

The Rural Fair Share campaign is calling on the Government to address the ongoing disparity in funding between rural and urban areas.

The Petition is asking the Government to reduce the Rural Penalty – which sees urban areas receive 50% more support per head than rural areas – by at least 10% by 2020.

John Whittingdale said: “Overall rural residents earn less, on average, than those in cities, pay council tax which is £76 more per person but see urban areas receive Government grants worth 50% more per head than those in the countryside.

“Delivering services in sparsely populated rural areas like the Maldon District also tends to be more expensive, which can add to the burden.

“The Government is proposing to freeze this position until 2020. Freezing the system is indefensible, locking-in past unfairness and stopping changes the Government has itself agreed from actually being implemented.

”It is deeply unfair that, at a time when local authority budgets are under such pressure, that Maldon District Council and other rural authorities are penalised by a system which is so biased towards urban areas. I am very pleased that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, was in the Chamber to hear the presentations of the petitions and we have also written to the Prime Minister to urge the Government to put this right”.

Graham Stuart MP, Co-Founder of the Rural Fair Share campaign said: “The rural voice has been too quiet and too easily ignored for too long. We need a change so that the money councils get from the Government is based on need, not a political fix. We want to see the Rural Penalty reduced so it is no more than 40% by 2020. This will be fair to urban and rural people alike.”