Tory-led Surrey County Council wants to hike council tax by 15%

Conservative-run Surrey County Council wants to raise council tax by 15% to cover rising demand for services, but it will have to put the plans to a vote

Surrey County Council will seek a council tax rise of 15%, it announced today.

“We have to set a budget that will protect vital services for Surrey residents,” said council leader David Hodge in a video message.

“Government has cut our annual grant by £170 m since 2010 – leaving a huge gap in our budget.”

Despite Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement last month that the council tax precept will no longer be limited to 2%, any local authority wanting to increase council tax by more than 2% must put the plans to a vote. The referendum will take place on 4 May, at the same time as local elections, and will include a vote in Runnymede and Weybridge – Chancellor Philip Hammond’s constituency.

Demand for adult social care in particular, as well as support for learning disabilities and children’s services is stretching many council budgets very thin. A failure to address the social care funding crisis in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has only served to exacerbate the problem.

‘Spiralling demand for services’

Hodge said that, despite finding £450m worth of savings from their annual budget, the council “have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax”.

A section of Surrey County Council’s website dedicated to ‘Demand Pressures’, draws attention to “enormous financial pressures driven by spiralling demand for services such as elderly care and school places”.

It claims that savings of £330 million from the council’s budget since 2011 have only just covered increased demand, and cites additional pressures including: an extra £20 m every year for social care; a shortfall of more than £30 m this year and next to create the necessary school places; and an extra £10 m to £14 m per year to support children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Not all councils have announced their intentions yet, but many have indicated that budget shortfalls will prevent them from providing the level of services currently on offer.

Glasgow City Council announced yesterday that it would raise council tax for the first time in 12 years – highlighting the fact that councils of all colours are facing the dilemma of an ever-widening funding gap.

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