THE Government has "fiddled" millions of pounds from more than 50 country district councils by "bending" the figures in distributing grants to local authorities, it is claimed today.
The list of the councils left short of funds include three in North Yorkshire - Craven, Richmondshire and Rydedale - plus Ribble Valley, the Lancashire authority which borders the Yorkshire Dales.
The allegation is made by SPARSE, a nationwide grouping of more than 50 local councils in sparsely populated regions, and it is claiming that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has robbed them of £70 million which has been diverted to urban areas, mostly in London.
Grants to local councils are based on population figures taken from the most recent census and recent figures show that there has been a big drift of population into the countryside.
But SPARSE claims that Prescott has "manipulated" this data so that he can divert money to London and other cities.
Commenting, Graham Biggs, Co-Chairman of Sparse said:" This looks, for all the world, like a £70 million fiddle for urban areas. It's inconceivable why so little use is being made of the 2001 Census data. Rural council tax payers are being forced to subsidise wealthy Londoners and other city dwellers."