A GROUP representing more than 200 countryside organisations has claimed Whitehall funding formulas are disadvantaging rural councils in the North-East and North Yorkshire - leaving them with more than £100 per head less to spend compared to urban councils.

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is warning that public services in rural areas face ruin as predominately urban local authorities receive 47 per cent more funding their country counterparts.

The RSN, which works towards improving the delivery of rural services across England, says residents in rural areas are experiencing real hardships as cuts in public services in their areas reach a crucial tipping point.

It expects the situation to get worse, regardless of the results of May's elections, unless Whitehall's funding formula for local authorities is rethought.

The organisation says people living in rural areas pay higher council tax bills to account for the lower government grants awarded to their local authorities, but this is still not enough to bridge the funding gap.

RSN chair Cecilia Motley said historically urban areas have always received a higher government grant, regardless of the party in government.

She said the difference amounted to £178 per head more for those living in urban areas.

“I’m a councillor in Shropshire and we’re struggling with exactly the same problems as councils like North Yorkshire - which is how do we pay for basic services but with less? We have to provide the same services as urban areas but with less money.

“The government doesn’t take any account of sparsity; of how expensive it is to deliver services in rural areas. Waste collections, delivering social care; it’s all more expensive if population is sparser.”

Deputy leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Carl Les said: "I would certainly welcome a review of the funding formula. We appreciate that inner cities do have issues with deprivation and other problems, but equally, we feel that our problems are exacerbated by the distances we have to travel to reach people in the first place. The time spent travelling to see a client is often as much as the time spent dealing with the client's problem.

"That issue may be recognised by ministers and MPs who have rural constituencies, but probably isn't by any of the civil servants working in that most urban of areas which is Whitehall."

Several weeks ago the government announced an increase in funding for local authorities covering the most sparsely populated areas of the country. The RSN welcomed the news, but said it would make little difference to the financial injustice which rural authorities have suffered for years.