Surrey council abandons plan to raise council tax by 15%

Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.

The Conservative-run council, whose leader David Hodge has said it faces a crisis because of central government cuts combined with ever-increasing demand for services, had planned to hold a referendum on the rise.

Since 2012, councils, fire services, and police and crime commissioners are required to hold a referendum if they wish to increase council tax by more than the cap set by central government.

Budget papers prepared for Tuesday’s full budget-setting meeting of the council still proposed the 15% rise. However, a last-minute set of revised recommendations instead said the council would seek a rise of 4.99%, which would not need public approval.

Speaking to the council meeting, Hodge said “relentless” cuts had seen a £170m reduction from central funding since 2010. At the same time, increased demand for adult and child social care meant two-thirds of the budget went on these alone.

Even the 4.99% rise would require the council to make £93m in cuts during the 2017-18 financial year, Hodge said.

The revised budget plan would be voted on by the council, a spokeswoman said.

Hodge told the council he was backing away from the referendum plan, which had caused some alarm in Theresa May’s government, on the assumption a longer-term solution was being…

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