Surrey plans 15% council tax hike

20 Jan 17

Surrey County Council has confirmed that it will seek to raise council tax by 15% next year in order to offset cuts to central grant.

The move will mean that a local referendum is required, since it is above the cap set by central government.

In a statement issued today, David Hodge, the leader of the Conservative-led council, said that the county’s annual grant had been cut by £170m since 2010, leaving a “huge gap” in its budget.

“Demand for adults’ social care, learning disabilities and children’s services is increasing every year,” said Hodge.

“So I regret, despite us finding £450m worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax.”

Each year the government sets the threshold at which local authorities can increase council tax without holding a referendum. For 2017-18 the draft threshold for county councils is 2%, plus an extra 3% for adult social care.

The only referendum since the cap was introduced in 2012 was held in Bedfordshire last year, when 69.5% of people rejected a tax rise proposed by the police and crime commissioner. The estimated cost of the referendum was £600,000. The Bedfordshire PCC covers a population of about 640,000, whereas Surrey has over a million residents.

There is already speculation that the council is headed for defeat at the polls. One Conservative Surrey MP told Sky News: “They'll hold a referendum, lose, and then use it for cover to cut services.”

Last year, Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson abandoned plans to hold a referendum on raising council tax in the city to 10%.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The government has protected local residents from high council tax rises by allowing local people to veto them through a council tax referendum. If the council sets this proposed budget, then the taxpayers of Surrey will have the final say in a referendum in May. We should trust the people.”

The department added that it had announced almost £900m of extra funding for social care over the next two years.

“We are clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution, including making sure all councils learn from the best performers to raise standards across the whole system,” the spokesman said.

Did you enjoy this article?