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My hon. Friend makes a critical point. When Labour were in government, I brought Labour Ministers to parts of Shrewsbury, including Harlescott, Ditherington and Sundorne, where there are some of the highest levels of deprivation throughout our county and the region. They were amazed. The Opposition just think of Shrewsbury as a quiet, sleepy, beautiful little historic town. They do not understand that there are significant levels of deprivation in rural shire counties.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, and to his colleagues in the Department for treating us with a great deal of civility and decency and for listening so attentively to our representations. I thank him for the additional £166 million, as a result of which Shropshire gets an additional £2.3 million. However, the taskforce that we have created will continue its work until we get a fairer funding settlement. I am very grateful to him for taking the first step in ensuring that the fair funding settlement is implemented. He has announced the start of a public consultation process, which is something that none of his predecessors did, so we can now acknowledge that he is taking our concerns seriously and is putting forward the mechanics to ensure that we finally have a fairer funding settlement between rural and inner city areas.
When the dust settles on this local finance settlement, I will continue to lobby my right hon. Friend, as will my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire, to ask for Shropshire to be considered for the next tranche of business rate retention pilot schemes, because that is a very good initiative and something from which our county could benefit significantly.
I will end by inviting the Secretary of State to Shropshire. He has been there before—he represents a constituency not far from us—and we have been very grateful for those visits. None the less, I invite him again to come to spend a day looking at how services are provided across a rural county, and how there are huge additional costs in providing those services. I say to Jim McMahon that, in contrast to what he attempted to say in his contribution, those additional costs do exist. In dealing with a lot of very small schools in rural villages, meals on wheels and getting support to remote rural villages, there are, of course, additional costs, and until they are taken into consideration, we, in the shire counties, will continue to lobby strenuously on this matter.