Surrey residents will pay nearly £50 a year more to the county council for its share of council tax from April.
The 2.99 per cent increase was confirmed at a full meeting of the authority on Tuesday (February 7) though opposition parties did not vote for the budget.
The raise, which is less than the 4.99 per cent councils can increase bills by without a referendum, is made up of 0.99 per cent on the core bill, and two per cent which will go towards adult social care. It will mean the average band D property will pay 94p per week, or £48.69 per year, more from April.
Surrey’s district and borough councils are still to confirm their increases.
The council’s Conservative leader, Tim Oliver (Weybridge) told the meeting the rise came in the context of the cost of living crisis, inflation and interest rates all impacting the council as well as Surrey residents. He added: “Everything we do has simply become more expensive to deliver. That can be seen in our budget papers, showing increased spending in almost every area.” Cllr Oliver said it was a “challenge” each year to deliver a balanced budget which nonetheless “prioritised those most in need of help and support but equally recognising that residents don’t always see or access many of our services“.
He said a “caring and democratic society” expected that people who needed to could turn to their local council for support, and pointed to nearly half of the council’s budget going on adult social care “looking after people with disabilities or extra needs as they get older”. The rise, he said, was less than inflation and less than in many other parts of the country.
But opposition group leaders on the council pointed to problems with the council’s home to school transport arrangements, families going to tribunals for SEND support and cuts to budgets.
Cllr Will Forster (Lib Dem, Woking South) highlighted £30m of cuts to adults and children’s social care, where “efficiencies” had been found in the budget. He said: “This budget has the wrong priorities. Rather than protecting services that vulnerable people rely on, they are targeted for cuts.”
The Lib Dem group also called on the council to spend some of its £150m of reserves, or savings, on highway repairs, saying residents wouldn’t understand why the council was “squirrelling” away money it could spend on improving the roads.
Residents’ group leader, Cllr Nick Darby (Dittons and Weston Green Residents, The Dittons), said £11m spent on an IT project that was still not operational, anger from residents over a proposed Guildford road closure and the “shambles” of school transport issues were signs of poor communication and consultation at the council. He said there was a need to “acknowledge problems, recognise them and then deal with them” adding that “not everything” in the budget was wrong.
Cllr Darby told the meeting: “On the one hand, we can and do provide figures which balance. It’s more difficult to fulfil our duty to residents by spending their money well, putting them first, especially the vulnerable.” He also repeated his call for a rethink of council tax bands, which would need to be done at central government level.
See below for a full breakdown of how much council tax money will be going to Surrey County Council from April:
Band A – £1,116.72 per year
Band B – £1,302.84 per year
Band C – £1,488.96 per year
Band D – £1,675.08 per year
Band E – £2,047.32 per year
Band F – £2,419.56 per year
Band G – £2,791.80 per year
Band H – £3,350.16 per year