MP accuses Government of "crude" funding for city

October 17, 2008 3:21 PM

Cambridge MP David Howarth has attacked the Government for operating a "crude and inappropriate" system to decide how much cash should be given to the city.

His attack, on the funding formula for free swimming and bus travel in the city, came during a Commons' debate in which he accused Government departments of making no sense when dealing with local government.

"We have seen two particular schemes-one from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on swimming and the other from the Department for Transport on concessionary fares-where the funding formulas have been extraordinarily crude and inappropriate, especially for two-tier local government," he said.

He challenged John Healey, Minister for Local Government and Communities to ensure that his department is consulted before any detailed funding proposals are put forward.

Mr Howarth spoke out after ratepayers were left picking up a bill of almost £500,000 earlier this year when Government funding for concessionary bus travel fell £1 million short.

Recently, Cambridge City Council announced it would not be applying for Government cash for free swimming in the district because of the way in which the scheme was funded.

In both cases, the city was expected to pay for visitors to the district, who were entitled to concessionary bus travel or swimming, in addition to eligible residents

Mr Howarth added that the distribution of Government money constantly disadvantages authorities that provide services to the surrounding area and those who do not live in the local authority area.

"That means that local authorities with swimming pools provide swimming services to people outside their area, yet their funding formula gives them no credit for that," he said.

"I do not want to seem ungrateful for the money-the total is very welcome - but the accumulation of the same error, affecting the same authorities over and over again, should surely be looked at."

Julie Smith, Executive Cllr for Arts and Recreation on Cambridge City Council, added: "We'd love to be able to offer free swimming but the formula used by the Government simply doesn't work for Cambridge. We'd be putting yet another burden on council taxpayers just at a time when the credit crunch and recession are hitting them hard."

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