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Government 'error' costs Durham council £224,000
COUNCIL chiefs are fuming after the Government promised them nearly £250,000 in extra funding – only to withdraw the offer within 24 hours.
On Monday, Durham County Council was unexpectedly included on a list of rural areas to share in £8.5m.
However, within 24 hours, the Labour-run authority was told it had been scrubbed from the list – robbing it of £224,000 for 2013-14, a year in which the authority faces nearly £21m of cuts.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said the original list had been incorrect.
“The allocations of the ‘efficiency support for services in sparse areas’ placed on the DCLG website on 4 February were incorrect,” he said.
“As soon as we realised this – within 24 hours – the correct version was put on the website and councils were informed.”
It is unclear how many other councils are affected. Northumberland and North Yorkshire remain on the funding list, with the latter in line for £374,000.
The Rural Services Network, which lobbied for the extra cash, says the list has been “heavily revised” but it has been unable to contact anyone at DCLG to find out more.
Durham council leader Simon Henig said: “It’s a big mystery. It’s all very strange. We want the mystery to be resolved.
“If we’re not on the list, we will want to know why. Weardale and Teesdale are as rural as anywhere in the country – if not more.
“It doesn’t make sense if we’ve dropped off the list.”
Coun Henig wants the money spent on boosting the county’s flood defences, after 2012 was Durham’s wettest year on record.
Ministers announced the extra funding after Tory-run shires revolted against what they said were unfair cuts in local government grants.
Rural councils had been due to receive 3.81 per cent less funding from Whitehall – compared with cuts of 2.05 per cent for urban authorities.
On Monday, local government minister Brandon Lewis said the settlement was “fair to North and South, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and metropolitan areas”.
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